Booming Wind and Solar Power Has Slashed Europe’s CO2 Emissions
Windmills and solar panels are helping to clean the air in Europe, and causing greenhouse gas emissions to plummet. Renewable energy in place of coal has slashed emissions by 8.8% each year from 2010 through 2012, the most recent year for which UN numbers are available.
Solar and wind power accounted for almost two-thirds of the reduced emissions. Other renewable sources, such as biodiesel, accounted for 36% of the cuts. Five nations, Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, and Spain, account for two-thirds of the reduced emissions. The 28 EU member countries combined spewed a billion fewer tons of CO2 per year in 2012, than they did in 1990.
The success is encouraging governments in the EU to set even higher standards for themselves. When European countries joined 37 other industrialized nations in signing the first-ever climate agreement–the Kyoto Protocol in 1997–they promised to produce 20% of their energy through wind and solar power by 2020. The EU has already reached 15%, and its ministers, now confident that they will exceed the original goal, have raised the bar to a 40% total by 2030.
Wind energy accounted for a third of all new generating capacity in Europe last year and is expected to produce as much as 17% of the EU’s electricity by 2020. Solar power is expected to produce another 12% – eliminating the need for at least 5.6 million tons of oil per year.