Renewable energy and safeguard policies
The Paris UN climate conference in December 2015 delivered a new universal climate change agreement. The new agreement is a global aim to transition to a low-carbon and sustainable future that keeps a global temperature rise below 2 degrees C. This historic agreement will incentivise actions and investment towards an increase of renewable energy globally.
BirdLife International supports the transition towards renewable energy, however this transition should ensure that any existing and new energy developments avoid harm to ecosystems and biodiversity. As with any other infrastructure developments, renewable energy and associated infrastructure such as power lines may have negative impacts on species and ecosystems particularly when deployed on a mass-scale without adequate planning in place.
Renewable energy resources, 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, indeed some may 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 appropiate mix of renewable energy sources with environmental sustainability. All energy developments should take place within a strategic planning framework and must be subject to environmental 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.
Migratory Soaring Birds project - Energy 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 - work on Energy project has collected resources on mitigating the effects of wind energy and power lines, such as spatial planning, monitoring and mitigation approaches.