Clean energy coalition of WWF, IRENA says shift to renewable energy must protect nature; all forms of renewable power are better than fossil fuels
A transition to Net Zero by scaling up wind and solar energy projects would be significantly less damaging than other renewable pathways, stated a new report by non-profit World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and intergovernmental organisation International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Adopting the right mix of low-carbon technologies to meet energy demand can help stabilise global temperatures and protect ecosystems, noted the document by Coalition Linking Energy And Nature for action (CLEANaction) released on April 20, 2023. CLEANaction is a partnership of several non-profits and organisations like WWF, IRENA and BirdLife International formed to protect nature during energy transition.
Solar and wind energy-based transitions can help achieve global energy authority International Energy Agency’s standards of a power system capable of holding global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This United Nations-mandated Paris Agreement goal is a crucial threshold to avoid the most disastrous consequences of climate change, the document pointed out.
Though wind energy is often accused of its detrimental effect on bats and birds, its impact is minimal compared to other major energy technologies, such as fossil fuels, bioenergy and nuclear energy.
Construction of other renewable energy projects, such as hydropower dams and associated reservoirs, often leads to the inundation of vast swathes of natural habitat and alters natural flow regimes and downstream habitats, the document added.
“Bioenergy, for instance, in all its forms, including biomass, biofuel and biogas, has a larger biodiversity impact per unit of energy than that of wind and solar,” the report added.
However, the consequence of bioenergy cannot be generalised as this depends on the feedstock involved.
But in some instances, it added that bioenergy and hydropower could also provide local renewable energy options with relatively low impacts on nature, depending on the local conditions.
CLEANaction urged governments to consider the impact on nature at the earliest stage by evaluating the renewable energy value chain (from sourcing material to disposal) and developing national regulatory schemes that require energy developers to contribute to national conservation targets.
Fossil fuels lie at the heart of energy and climate crises, so a shift to renewable energy is the only way out. But the expanding renewable energy projects should consider their impacts on climate and biodiversity. Adopting a circular economy model prioritising material reuse can help avoid and minimise impacts on nature. Such models can contribute to nature-positive outcomes, the document added.
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