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Research shows recession impact on emissions ‘less than thought’

November 4th, 2013

Research by an investment group owned by France's sovereign wealth fund claims that the uptake of renewable energies has had more to do with the reduction of emissions than initially thought.

CDC says its findings demonstrate that the argument of economic growth, the main political argument against a more ambitious climate policy, no longer seems to hold.

According to CDC Climat, an investment group owned by France's sovereign wealth fund, the Caisse des Dépôts, the economic slowdown did not play such a decisive part in the reduction of carbon emissions. Instead the accelerated spread of wind farms and solar panels in electricity production have proven more significant in reducing carbon emissions in Europe since 2005.

The European Commission had originally pointed to the recessionary impact as the key variable in reducing CO2 and policymakers in the bloc had very much taken to that assertion.

“The good news is that we believe that CO2 emissions in Europe have declined by about 1.1 gigatons of CO2 since 2005," says Emilie Alberola, who heads CDC Climat's carbon market and energy practice.

Meanwhile Sarah Azau of the European Wind Energy Association told Power Engineering International, "The research shows once again that wind energy avoids greenhouse gas emissions – in 2011, it avoided CO2 equivalent to 33 per cent of the EU’s car fleet. But what these latest figures also show is that there is no economic argument against a combination of ambitious binding targets for renewables and greenhouse gas reduction for 2030."

"On the contrary, a combination of mutually reinforcing targets including a binding renewable energy target for 2030 will not only boost renewable energy and therefore cut greenhouse gas emissions further still, they will also create green jobs and growth for Europe, and reinforce an industry in which Europe is a world leader: the wind energy industry."

According to Eurostat, electricity generated from renewable sources rose from under 14 per cent to over 20 per cent of the total in Europe between 2005 and 2011.

Euractiv reports that according to the calculations of CDC Climat, these new energies alone explain half of the carbon savings since 2005, representing 500 million tons of avoided CO2 emissions. The economic slowdown, for its part, contributed a smaller share of emissions reduction, estimated at 300 million tons of carbon.

The carbon market was neutralised by the weakness of CO2 emissions in Europe, which led to an artificial abundance of emission quotas in circulation. The carbon price has fallen to zero first in 2008, before going up to nearly €30 per ton in 2009. They currently hover around €6 per ton.

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