Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Energy Sector

Article written by Mr Edward Perry, BirdLife International

Bonn, 20 December 2017 - The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held the 21st meeting of its Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) on 11-14 December 2017. One of the main agenda items discussed was how to mainstream biodiversity conservation into the sectors of energy and mining, infrastructure, manufacturing and processing industry, and health. Members of the CMS Energy Task Force were present, and held a side event to share guidance, lessons learned and recommendations for integrating biodiversity considerations into renewable energy and powerline developments.

The side event “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Energy Sector”, organised by BirdLife International on behalf of the CMS Energy Task Force, was held on 13 December. Panellists included representatives from the governments of Germany, South Africa and Egypt, as well as BirdLife International and Nature Conservation Egypt.

The event was opened and chaired by Dr. Noelle Kumpel, Head of Policy at BirdLife International, who outlined the risk posed to biodiversity from growing energy demand and stressed the importance of finding ways to meet this demand whilst also conserving biodiversity.

Mr Edward Perry, BirdLife International, provided an overview of the CMS Energy Task Force, which was set up under CMS COP Resolution 11.27 and operationalized in 2016 thanks to a voluntary contribution from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB). Mr Perry emphasised that the strength of the CMS Energy Task Force is its multi-stakeholder membership. He told the audience about the completed and planned work of the Task Force that could be used to inform and support CBD work on mainstreaming biodiversity. Mr Perry welcomed opportunities to collaborate with the CBD and other organisations to maximise synergies and avoid duplication.

Dr. Ostermeyer-Schlöder, Head of Division, International Cooperation on Biodiversity, BMUB, stressed that efforts to combat climate change through renewable energy deployment must go hand-in-hand with conservation policies. Dr Ostermeyer-Schlöder underlined the importance of addressing conservation concerns at the start of planning processes and carefully considering the location of energy projects. In addition to better planning for energy developments, Germany is also taking efforts to reduce overall demand for energy through energy efficiency measures. These and other points are highlighted in Germany’s “Five points on a nature-friendly 2050 energy transition”.

Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director General, Biodiversity and Conservation, Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa, summarised the various direct and indirect impacts related to the construction and operation of renewable energy technologies. Avoiding or minimising these impacts requires good planning, which is supported in South Africa through the use of tools such as strategic environmental assessment, spatial planning, environmental impact assessments as well as monitoring and reporting to test the effectiveness of mitigation measures. Mr Munzhedzi emphasised the value of collaboration across government, utilities and civil society organisations. He welcomed participants to South Africa where the next Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) will be held in December 2018.

Mr Noor A. Noor, Executive Coordinator, Nature Conservation Egypt presented the GEF-UNDP/BirdLife Migratory Soaring Birds Project. Egypt lies at the heart of critical migratory routes for birds, specifically soaring birds (storks, pelicans and raptors). Some of the critical bottleneck areas for soaring birds coincide with prime real estate for wind farms. To safeguard the flyway for migratory birds and reduce collision and electrocution risks the project has worked to coordinate between the environmental and renewable energy sectors. This successful collaboration has pioneered bird-friendly measures in the region’s renewable energy sector, including standardised criteria for future environmental impact assessments, guidelines on pre-construction planning and monitoring, as well shutdown-on-demand protocols which ensures appropriate response by wind farms to oncoming of birds.

Dr Hamdallah Zeidan, National Focal Point for Egypt and Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for CBD COP 14, reiterated the importance of multi-stakeholder and cross-ministerial collaboration, citing the example of joint planning by the New and Renewable Energy Authority and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency. Dr Zeidan encouraged environment ministries to engage their colleagues in sectorial and finance ministries, and recommended that they attend the High Level Segment preceding the CBD COP14. Dr Zeidan emphasised that mainstreaming biodiversity into the energy sector is a priority for Egypt as the host of CBD COP14. He invited case studies from the CMS Energy Task Force in preparation for the CBD COP14, and encouraged further collaboration.

The presentations were followed by a facilitated discussion, which explored some of the key issues and opportunities. Points raised included the need to mainstream biodiversity across the full planning cycle, and to start as early as a possible to avoid reliance on mitigation measures that tend to be more expensive and less-effective; the need to improve quality and access to good biodiversity data; the lack of robust cumulative impact assessments; and the importance of bringing together different stakeholders through coordination structures and targeted capacity building. There was a call to harness synergies between initiatives rather than duplicate them, and to continue to work together to develop concrete recommendations that the CBD COP14 could adopt.

Last updated on 20 December 2017