Wind Farm Wales cc Statkraft

Windmills and solar panels are helping to clean the air in Europe – and causing greenhouse gas emissions to plummet.

Renewable energy in place of dirty coal plants have slashed CO2 emissions by 8.8% each year from 2010 through 2012– the most recent year for which United Nations 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.

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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.

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“This is a powerful demonstration that climate change agreements not only work, but can drive even higher ambition over time.” said a statement from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which released the latest figures.

(READ more at Climate News Network) — Photo: Statkraft, CC

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