COP21: Climate Initiatives Must Not Include Large Hydropower Projects- NGOs

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), International Rivers, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)

December 3, 2015

In a global manifesto released today, a coalition of more than 300 civil society organizations from 53 countries called on governments and financiers at the Paris climate talks to keep large hydropower projects out of climate initiatives such as the Clean Development Mechanism, the World Bank’s Clean Investment Funds, and green bonds.

Large hydropower projects emit massive amounts of methane, make water and energy systems more vulnerable to climate change, and cause severe damage to critical ecosystems and local communities. Including them in climate initiatives crowds out support for true climate solutions such as wind and solar power which have become readily available, can be built more quickly than large dams and have a smaller social and environmental footprint.

“Particularly in tropical regions, hydropower reservoirs emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases, comparable to the climate impact of the aviation sector”, said Peter Bosshard, interim Executive Director of International Rivers. “For environmental, social and economic reasons, large hydropower projects are a false solution to climate change.”

“Large hydropower projects have serious impacts on local communities and often violate the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, cultural integrity and free, prior informed consent”, said Joan Carling, Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP). “The resistance of dam-affected communities has often been met with egregious human rights violations.”

“Hydropower dams make water and energy systems more vulnerable to climate change,” said Himanshu Thakkar, the founder of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP). “Dam building has exacerbated flood disasters in fragile mountain areas. At the same time more extreme droughts increase the economic risks of hydropower, and have greatly affected countries that depend on hydropower dams for most of their electricity.”

“Wind and solar power have become readily available and financially competitive, and have overtaken large hydropower in the addition of new capacity,” said Astrid Puentes, co-Executive Director of the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA). “The countries of the global South should leapfrog obsolete dam projects and promote energy solutions that are gentle to our climate, our environment and the people that depend on it.”

Background:

Large hydropower projects are often propagated as a “clean and green” source of electricity by international financial institutions, national governments and other actors. They greatly benefit from instruments meant to address climate change, including carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), credits from the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds, and special financial terms from export credit agencies and green bonds. The dam industry advocates that large hydropower projects be funded by the Green Climate Fund, and many governments boost them as a response to climate change through national initiatives. For example, at least twelve governments with major hydropower sectors have included an expansion of hydropower generation in their reports on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Support from climate initiatives is one of the main reasons why more than 3,700 hydropower dams are currently planned and under construction around the world.

Further information:

The civil society manifesto, Ten Reasons Why Climate Initiatives Should Not Include Large Hydropower Projects, is available at www.internationalrivers.org/node/9204.

The new video, A Wrong Climate for Damming Rivers, is available at https://vimeo.com/147261951.

Published at:

10 Reasons Why Large Hydropower Is a False Solution to Climate Change http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-bosshard/ten-reasons-why-large-hyd_b_8710958.html Posted: 04/12/2015 00:39 IST Peter Bosshard

International Rivers

Co-authored with Joan Carling (Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact), Astrid Puentes (Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense) and Himanshu Thakkar (South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People)

Media contacts:

Astrid Puentes, AIDA, Mexico City, apuentes@aida-americas.org, +52 155 2301 6639

Joan Carling, AIPP, Paris, joan@aippnet.org

Peter Bosshard, International Rivers, Berkeley, peter@internationalrivers.org, +1 510 213 1438

Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP, Delhi, ht.sandrp@gmail.com, +91 99 6824 2798

Sign-on Letter!

http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2486/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18739

FULL STATEMENT

Ten Reasons Why Climate Initiatives Should Not Include Large Hydropower Projects

A Civil Society Manifesto for the Support of Real Climate Solutions

Large hydropower projects are often propagated as a “clean and green” source of electricity by international financial institutions, national governments and other actors. They greatly benefit from instruments meant to address climate change, including carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), credits from the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds, and special financial terms from export credit agencies and green bonds. The dam industry advocates for large hydropower projects to be funded by the Green Climate Fund, and many governments boost them as a response to climate change through national initiatives. For example, at least twelve governments with major hydropower sectors have included an expansion of hydropower generation in their reports on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Support from climate initiatives is one of the reasons why more than 3,700 hydropower dams are currently under construction and in the pipeline. Yet large hydropower projects are a false solution to climate change. They should be kept out from national and international climate initiatives for the following reasons:

  1. Particularly in tropical regions, hydropower reservoirs emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases. According to a peer-reviewed study, methane from reservoirs accounts for more than 4% of all human-caused climate change – comparable to the climate impact of the aviation sector. In some cases, hydropower projects are producing higher emissions than coal-fired power plants generating the same amount of electricity.
  1. Rivers take about 200 million tons of carbon out of the atmosphere every year. In addition, the silt that rivers like the Amazon, Congo, Ganges and Mekong carry to the sea feeds plankton and absorbs large amounts of carbon. Hydropower projects and other dams disrupt the transport of silt and nutrients and impair the role of rivers to act as global carbon sinks.
  1. Hydropower dams make water and energy systems more vulnerable to climate change. Unprecedented floods are threatening the safety of dams and alone in the US have caused more than 100 dams to fail since 2010. Dam building has exacerbated flood disasters in fragile mountain areas such as Uttarakhand/India. At the same time more extreme droughts increase the economic risks of hydropower, and have greatly affected countries from Africa to Brazil that depend on hydropower dams for most of their electricity.
  1. In contrast to most wind, solar and micro-hydropower projects, dams cause severe and often irreversible damage to critical ecosystems. Due to dam building and other factors, freshwater ecosystems have on average lost 76% of their populations since 1970 – more than marine and land-based ecosystems. Building more dams to protect ecosystems from climate change means sacrificing the planet’s arteries to protect her lungs.
  1. Large hydropower projects have serious impacts on local communities and often violate the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories, resources,  governance, cultural integrity and free, prior informed consent. Dams have displaced at least 40-80 million people and have negatively affected an estimated 472 million people living downstream. The resistance of dam-affected communities has often been met with egregious human rights violations.
  1. Large hydropower projects are not always an effective tool to expand energy access for poor people. In contrast to wind, solar and micro-hydropower, large hydropower dams depend on central electric grids, which are not a cost-effective tool to reach rural populations particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Himalayas. Large hydropower projects are often built to meet the demands of mining and industrial projects even if they are justified by the needs of the poor.
  1. Even if they were a good solution in other ways, large hydropower projects would be a costly and time-consuming way to address the climate crisis. On average large dams experience cost overruns of 96% and time overruns of 44%. In comparison, wind and solar projects can be built more quickly and experience average cost overruns of less than 10%.
  1. Unlike wind and solar power, hydropower is no longer an innovative technology, and has not seen major technical breakthroughs in several decades. Unlike with solar power, climate funding for large hydropower projects will not bring about further economies of scale, and does not encourage a transfer of new technologies to Southern countries.
  1. Wind and solar power have become readily available and financially competitive, and have overtaken large hydropower in the addition of new capacity. As grids become smarter and the cost of battery storage drops, new hydropower projects are no longer needed to balance intermittent sources of renewable energy.
  1. Hydropower projects currently make up 26% of all projects registered with the CDM, and absorb significant support from other climate initiatives. Climate finance for large hydropower projects crowds out support for real solutions such as wind, solar and micro hydropower, and creates the illusion of real climate action. Including large hydropower in climate initiatives falsely appears to obliterate the need for additional real climate solutions.

For these reasons, the undersigned organizations and individuals call on governments, financiers and other institutions to keep large hydropower projects out of their initiatives to address climate change. Outside climate initiatives, such projects should only go forward under a full assessment of all options as well as strict social and environmental conditions such as those recommended by the World Commission on Dams.

 Amazon Watch – Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact – Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente – Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation – Carbon Market Watch – International Rivers – Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement International – Oxfam International – South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People – Urgewald

6 Comments on “COP21: Climate Initiatives Must Not Include Large Hydropower Projects- NGOs

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