Providing electricity Vs protecting biodiversity

21 March 2014 | Article

Providing access to electricity for those that need it and protecting biodiversity are both critical national issues. Does one outweigh the other?

Energy Programme Coordinator at IUCN Oceania, Anare Matakiviti has this to say about the matter:

Providing electricity to all the population is undeniably vital in this modern day age. For electricity is so versatile that it is often viewed as the driver for economic and social development – it is critical for improving health services, education, telecommunication and improving living standard through the provision of better lights, facilitating the use of modern appliances and equipment, establishment of income generation activities, etc. The provision of energy services like electricity can also have considerable consequences on the environment. The consequences of using fossil fuels for producing electricity are well established and proven beyond doubt that fossil fuel burning contributes to the ever changing climatic conditions the whole world is experiencing now. Similarly the use of natural energy sources such as hydro (with built in dams) can have adverse consequences on biodiversity loss. The same is true for wind energy, the installation of wind farms over large areas of land contribute to biodiversity loss.

Therefore energy projects that help provide electricity access to people must be planned and implemented with due consideration to minimising the potential impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems such as river basins. Access to electricity and maintaining the biodiversity integrity in the environment are equally vital to human wellbeing.

Some facts:

  • Worldwide, 1.3 billion people cannot access electricity
  • It is estimated that 70% of households across the Pacific do not have access to electricity and 85% do not have access to clean cooking energy technology
  • 715 species were added to the threatened categories of Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically endangered in the 2013 update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. As of 2013, the Red List has evaluated 70,923 of the world's species—including almost all mammals, birds, and amphibians—of which 20,934 are deemed threatened and need protection.