New world pointers: a nature-friendly transition to renewable energies

It’s getting clearer and clearer that our planet is at a critical ecological crossroads. Greenhouse gas emissions – especially carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels – have disrupted the global climate system. In addition, deforestation and soil degradation destroy precisely the habitats that could absorb this carbon. Change is necessary – and quickly. According to the IPCC Special Report 2018, CO2 emissions must decrease by around 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Renewable energies play a vital role in addressing this pressing challenge. They can provide more than enough electricity to meet our future needs. Recent research by the International Renewable Energy Agency shows that renewable energies, including wind and solar, are the most effective and easily available solution for reversing rising CO2 emissions. However, it is crucial that this expansion of solar and wind power does not lead to further loss of biodiversity or damage to the ecosystem. We need to be aware of the unintended consequences for nature and people that the production, transmission and distribution of renewable energies can have if not properly managed.

A transition to renewable energies, which both avoids damage and contributes to nature conservation, is therefore essential, but can only take place with the support of all relevant decision-makers in every phase of planning and implementation.

To address these challenges, BirdLife International, in collaboration with other partners in the conservation and energy sectors, has joined the IUCN and the Biodiversity Consultancy to support and develop new global guidelines: Mitigating the impact of biodiversity in the context of the development of the Solar and wind energy.

These guidelines bring together a wide range of wind and solar literature, experience and case studies and provide project developers with examples of good practice. The guidelines also emphasize the fundamental importance of the mitigation hierarchy – especially to avert problems early in the project planning process by locating infrastructure where it least impacts biodiversity.

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“BirdLife International insists that as we urgently reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and move to a renewable energy future, we must ensure that technologies like wind and sun are properly safeguarded to prevent negative impacts on key areas of biodiversity and endangered species to avoid. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we need to rebuild should ensure that we don’t undo the progress we are making on one side with the harm on the other, ”said Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International.

As the world shifts to more sustainable energy sources, developers and financial institutions need tools to ensure that the transition is nature sensitive. This is an area where BirdLife is particularly active in our global partnership. We often work with financial institutions and developers and suggest appropriate safeguards and investment activities to ensure biodiversity is incorporated into local credit decisions and projects. We use our knowledge and scientific expertise to develop tools such as the Soaring Bird Sensitivity Mapping Tool, which highlights sensitive habitats and species and makes clear the importance of strategic spatial planning as a first step in development projects.

BirdLife is also part of the Convention on the Energy Task Force on Migratory Species (ETF) – a platform where governments, multilateral environmental agreements, investors, NGOs and the private sector come together to balance the development of renewable energies with the protection of migratory species bring. One of the main roles of the ETF is to help developers implement best practice guidelines around the world, and to publish guidelines and tools outlining how to minimize their impact.

This moment provides a unique opportunity to drive change on multiple levels and with multiple stakeholders, ensuring that nature does not lag behind with the advancement of renewable energies.

Attend the free online launch event for the new guidelines here.

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