Europe and Central Asia
8 Jul 2021

Renewable Energy at Sea and nature conservation

By Anouk Puymartin
The EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy, published at the end of 2020, plans for a 25-fold increase in offshore wind capacity by 2050, together with a significant deployment of wave, tidal, thermal, and other marine renewable energy. 
 
With this position paper, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia gives recommendations to EU policy makers to ensure that offshore renewable energy planning at regional and national level is in line with key EU legislations and objectives to protect and restore nature.  
 
BirdLife welcomes the transition towards renewable energy sources. However, the implementation of laws that protect marine biodiversity from this large-scale infrastructure must be ramped up. Climate degradation and biodiversity loss are two sides of the same coin. As the recent IPES-IPCC report on Biodiversity and Climate Change highlights, these two challenges cannot be tackled separately.
 
The development of offshore wind energy can help contribute towards reaching the EU target of cutting CO2 emissions by 55% by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement and the need to defossilize the energy system. However, biodiversity loss and ecosystem health must not be overshadowed when implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  
 
An integrated, interdisciplinary and holistic approach is necessary. Applying this approach to marine protection also means that the large-scale deployment of offshore energy must be carried out with respect for marine life. Already today, our seas face severe and ongoing human impact that devastates nature at sea. The 2020 conservation targets which require to maintain clean, healthy and productive seas in order to meet Good Environmental Status (GES) standards under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC), were not met.  
 
Unless these urgencies are tackled, adding more pressure will push the marine environment well beyond its breaking point. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the future planning of offshore wind energy development includes strategies to ensure that nature at sea is protected and that the cumulative impacts of this expansion do not exceed the capacity of our seas.  
 
 


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