Renewable energy and safeguard policies
The UN climate conference in December 2015 delivered a new universal climate change agreement: the Paris Agreement. The new agreement is a global aim to transition to a low-carbon and sustainable future that limits global temperature rise to 2˚C, and strives to keep it below 1.5˚C. This historic agreement will incentivise actions and investment towards a necessary and rapid renewable energy transition in order to avoid damaging and irreversible impacts to all life on earth.
However, as with any other infrastructure developments, renewable energy and associated infrastructure such as powerlines may have negative impacts on species and ecosystems, particularly when deployed on a large scale without adequate planning in place. We must therefore ensure that any existing and new energy developments avoid harm to biodiversity and ecosystems.
Several types of renewable energy, particularly wind energy and solar energy, can make a valuable contribution to addressing climate change by providing energy with substantially lower emissions than fossil fuels. Other renewable technologies may deliver limited carbon savings over their life-cycle – biofuels in particular will often provide minimal carbon savings, and some may in fact result in higher emissions than the fossil fuel they substitute. Additionally, climate change mitigation measures such as unsustainably produced biofuels pose new threats and stresses on birds and their habitats. 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.
To avoid harm early in the planning phase, renewable energy action plans should be considered within a framework that integrates energy demand reduction, energy efficiency and an appropriate mix of renewable energy sources with environmental sustainability. All energy developments should take place within a strategic planning framework and must be subject to cumulative environmental impact assessments that determine the impacts on habitats, biodiversity and local communities.
BirdLife continues to engage with and seek to inform financial institutions, such as Multilateral Development Banks, on suitable safeguards and investment activities that will ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem considerations are incorporated in lending decisions and implemented on the ground.
What is BirdLife doing to strengthen safeguards?
BirdLife is involved in a range of activities that aim to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem considerations in renewable energy decisions and developments and has developed a range of supporting guidelines.
CMS Energy Task Force - BirdLife coordinates the Energy Task Force, a multi-stakeholder platform that works towards reconciling renewable energy developments with the conservation of migratory species
Migratory Soaring Birds project - Energy - This project has produced comprehensive guidance materials and best practice examples, targeted at range of different stakeholders. These concern wind, solar and transmission lines for the Rift Valley Red Sea Flyway.
MAVA Med Flyway Network - This project has collected resources on mitigating the effects of wind energy and power lines, such as spatial planning, monitoring and mitigation approaches.
- BirdLife International's Position on Climate Change
- BirdLife International’s positions on the post-2020 nature, climate and development agendas, including renewable energy development
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