Renewable energy and safeguard policies

The issue

BirdLife International supports the transition to renewable sources of energy, but this transition must avoid harm to ecosystems and biodiversity. Renewable Energy resources,  particularly wind and solar can make a valuable contribution to tackling climate change by providing energy with substantially lower emissions than fossil fuels and at a significant viable scale, but design and location are critical factors to be considered to avoid impacts on birds.

Other renewable technologies may deliver limited carbon savings over their life-cycle – biofuels in particular will often provide minimal carbon savings, indeed some may result in higher emissions than the fossil fuel they substitute. Additionally climate change mitigation measures such as these unsustainably produced biofuels pose new threats and stresses on birds and their habitats

All energy developments  should take place utilising a positive planning framework and must be subject to strategic planning including assessments of their environmental impacts on habitats, biodiversity and local communities. The associated infrastructure which is required to deliver any energy generated to the consumer may also have a negative effect on birds and biodiversity, and this infrastructure must also be planned and assessed accordingly. A precautionary avoidance of harm to biodiversity is essential when designing and siting renewable energy developments and technologies.

Renewable energy projects should be considered within a framework for sustainable development that integrates energy demand reduction and efficiency strategies , a diverse mix of renewable energy sources designed to meet an increasing proportion of overall energy demand and the protection of biodiversity. Renewable energy supply must make a significant difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels, and this must account for emissions from the full life-cycle.


Safeguard policies

Recent years have seen a welcome and significant, scaling up of global finance directed to renewable energy developments and associated infrastructure projects. For such developments to maximise environmental benefits and minimise impacts on biodiversity (especially threatened species and IBAs) BirdLife is advocating for strong and robust  biodiversity and social safeguards to be embedded within lending decisions and development priorities of the key financial mechanisms through which many of these funds are administered including bilateral agencies, multilateral agencies and commercial banks. BirdLife and BirdLife Partners are seeking to ensure that any safeguard policies are implemented and mitigation actions designed appropriately and adhered to.


What is BirdLife doing to strengthen safeguards?                           

Comprehensive guidance materials and best practice examples, targeted at range of different stakeholders including Governments, investors and developers, have been developed and continue to be refined and expanded by BirdLife in 2012. These concern wind, solar and transmission lines for the Rift Valley Red Sea Flyway.

BirdLife continues to engage with and seek to inform many of the financial institutions, including the Multilateral Development Banks, on the suitable procedures and mechanisms that will ensure that bird and biodiversity issues are safeguarded, and that bird and biodiversity issues are mainstreamed into their activities and decision making process.


Policy positions and briefs

Policy and advocacy work around the issue of biodiversity safeguards is an important component of BirdLife’s Migratory Birds and Flyways Programme and Migratory Soaring Birds Project and the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) Programme.

Migratory Soaring Birds Project Guidance Factsheets on Energy developments

Policy news