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Climate initiatives must not include large hydropower projects, according to 300 organisations

A coalition of more than 300 civil society organizations from 53 countries have 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 Climate Investment Funds, and green bonds.

According to these organizations, 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. They claim that including them in climate initiatives overshadows 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”, claims 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”, says 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.”

Himanshu Thakkar, the founder of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), states,“Hydropower dams make water and energy systems more vulnerable to climate change. 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.”

Astrid Puentes, co-Executive Director of the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), claims that wind and solar power have become readily available and financially competitive, and have now overtaken large hydropower. She states, “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.”

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