Lake Balbina, a man-made reservoir created to supply hydroelectric power to the city of Manaus in Brazil. Courtesy of NASA.
Nearly 200 civil society organizations have called on world leaders to exclude large hydroelectric projects from receiving green climate funds and other incentives.
The message of the letter, published Monday during climate talks in Lima, is simple: “large dams are not clean energy.”
The letter notes that while often touted as a source of clean, renewable energy, large dams have been historically plagued with social and environmental problems. These include greenhouse gas emissions, disruption of ecological processes and wildlife migration, pollution, social conflict, and displacement of local people.
It calls on international financiers and development institutions to stop providing incentives via mechanisms like the Clean Development Mechanism and the Green Climate Fund for large dams. The letter also urges greater transparency in decision-making processes for energy production and asks leaders to prioritize energy efficiency and “decentralized renewables” like “solar, wind, biomass and geothermal” to meet future energy demand.
“Today there are cleaner, more efficient, less costly and faster alternatives to respond simultaneously to legitimate energy needs and the climate crisis,” states the letter, which will be delivered in person by indigenous leaders to delegates at climate talks this week.
The developing world is in the midst of a dam-building spree, with a number of the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers targeted with new projects. The Amazon is a particular target, with some 250 new dams planned for the region by 2020.