We live in an age of urgency. Scientists have warned that we have little time to act to bring climate change under control and protect the integrity of life on our planet.
Confronting the climate crisis requires creative solutions that both protect nature and respect human rights. Facing these challenges, we cannot remain silent onlookers while corporate profiteers, financiers, and their allies peddle false solutions for addressing climate change and implementing sustainable development.
A flagrant example of such deception is the attempt to portray large hydroelectric dams as a ‘clean and green’ source of energy, as can be seen at the 2019 World Hydropower Congress. Organized in Paris by the industrial lobby of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) in partnership with UNESCO, the conference’s title reads, “Delivering the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Such glossy portrayals of hydroelectric dam projects—with an eye toward capturing financial incentives through mechanisms like Climate Bonds and the Green Climate Fund—conveniently ignore a long legacy of social and environmental catastrophes, economic waste and, all too often, massive corruption schemes that are the antithesis of truly sustainable development.
A Call for Action
The undersigned civil society organizations call on the members of the International Hydropower Association, governments and international financial institutions to implement the following urgent actions:
Among the benefits of such a paradigm shift in energy strategies and development planning will be major contributions toward protecting the world’s last free-flowing rivers, vital for climate resiliency, biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods.
Energy companies and governments must halt all efforts to dam the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers and concentrate instead on: i) improving efficiency and the sustainability of existing hydropower projects and cascades; and ii) investing in energy efficiency and truly sustainable renewables.
Moreover, governments must urgently promote the permanent legal protection of the world’s last free-flowing rivers, including transboundary watercourses, with due respect for the territorial rights of indigenous peoples and other traditional communities, who play fundamental roles as the guardians of healthy rivers.