Industry eyes shift to COP21 climate talks


November 20, 2015

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The European Wind Energy Association conference went ahead as planned in Paris this week despite last Friday’s terror attacks, and was by all accounts a good event. We were happy to turn out and show our support for the people of Paris at this difficult time.

But this was only ever going to be an aperitif ahead of the main event: the United Nations climate change conference that is due to start in the French capital on 30 November and attended by a host of the world’s most powerful leaders. Thousands of representatives from 190 countries are due at the two-week event, with the aim of reaching a legally-binding and universal agreement on climate change that can keep global warming below 2°C.

The talks are officially known at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and organising them was difficult enough even without the recent attacks. Getting a binding deal will be even more difficult.

We hope the attacks may strengthen the resolve of those in Paris to get things done, as they show the security threats that can follow upheaval caused by climate change in vulnerable regions. And, as we heard at the EWEA conference, the wind industry will be hoping for a deal as it is in line to benefit. But there are no guarantees.

If the 190 nations can reach a binding agreement to keep global warming to a certain level then it should help with the adoption of wind power globally.

However, even if they cannot reach an agreement, wind can still benefit from the fact that the Paris talks are forcing nations to look at their ‘green’ energy plans and so far 150 have made specific climate commitments.

Antoine Cahuzac, chief executive at EDF Energies Nouvelles, said in the opening session on Tuesday that having more countries looking at their climate change plans would open up more opportunities for investors in wind.

He said: “The fact that more and more countries are giving this visibility over the long term allows us to invest in new technology and develop new areas. This will definitely improve the penetration of wind farms.”

Cahuzac added that the best result from the UN talks for the wind sector would be a minimum global carbon price.

Jérôme Pécresse, chief executive of GE Renewable Energy, agreed that a global carbon price would be helpful, and so would a financial mechanism to help encourage institutional investors to make more investments in wind in emerging markets.

And Francesco Venturini, chief executive of Enel Green Power, said global talks such as COP21 provided a great opportunity for wind companies in Europe to seek to learn from their compatriots in other parts of the world, including Africa and South America.

He said that wind companies in Europe were often too insular, but that uncertainty in key European wind markets meant that they should be looking to learn lessons from those investing elsewhere.

Wind stood firm in Paris this week. Now it needs world leaders to do the same at COP21. Wind may not be the focus of these Paris talks, but it can still be a big beneficiary of them.

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