The 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP20) in Lima, Peru, is the last UN climate summit before the meeting in Paris 2015, when governments hope to agree to a global legal framework setting binding targets to reduce CO2 emmissions. Leaders will be desperate to avoid another disappointment along the lines of the climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, when an ambitious global agreement failed to materialise despite high expectations.
Ahead of the Lima climate summit, the European Union agreed to the 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy, setting binding EU targets for 2030 of at least 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, at least 27% of energy used by the EU being generated by renewables, and an energy efficiency increase of at least 27%.
Proponents argue that setting tough climate targets will spur a sustainable, green growth boom in Europe, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and boosting innovation. If you want a break-down of some of the numbers involved, check out our infographic below (click on the image for a larger version):
However, we had a comment sent in by Dan arguing that the focus on renewables was misplaced. He believes that “green energy is not as green as advertised” and that it would be much more effective to focus on lowering fuel consumption, recycling, insulating buildings and saving energy.
Renewable energy sources accounted for an 11.0 % share of the EU-28’s gross inland energy consumption in 2012. Less than 15% of that was produced by wind and solar energy (which is what most people think of when you say “renewables”). Instead, the majority (over 60%) of renewable energy in gross inland consumption was generated by “biomass and renewable waste” – i.e. organic matter such as wood, crop waste, or garbage.
Green pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have accused biomass of being “dirtier than coal” because not only does burning wood and other organic matter emit CO2, but it can also involve the destruction of mature forest land which naturally captures carbon from the atmosphere.
To get a response to Dan’s comment, we spoke to Karsten Neuhoff, Head of Climate Policy Department at the German Institute for Economics Research (DIW Berlin). How would he respond to the argument that energy efficiency was a much more effective way of meeting Europe’s climate targets?
To get another reaction, we also spoke to Paul Watkinson, Head of the Climate Negotiation Team at the French Ministry of Ecology. What would he say to Dan?
Is “green energy” really as green as advertised? Or is the reliance on biomass distorting the true cost of renewables? Should Europe instead focus on increasing energy efficiency to meet its climate targets? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.