Conservation, Business, and Political Leaders Foster Chinese-Latin American Dialogue on Sustainable Hydropower
"Innovation laboratory" to set a common agenda for environmentally and socially responsible hydroelectricity
Lima, Peru | July 21, 2014
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Latin America Conservation Council (LACC) hosted an “Innovation Laboratory" bringing together Latin American and Chinese hydropower development leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss strengthening hydropower sustainability standards in Latin America.
China is a significant player in the current and future development of hydropower infrastructure in Latin America. A constructive dialogue between Chinese companies engaged in hydropower development and strategic Latin American stakeholders —from the public, corporate, and financial sectors— is vital to ensure that Latin America’s hydropower projects are developed in a sustainable way, not only in an economic sense, but also in a way that encourages the conservation of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and respond to needs of the local people.
“This dialogue between Latin America and China reflects our vision for a ‘smart’ sustainable growth on hydropower and other infrastructure projects,” said Ana Cristina Barros, Regional Director of Smart Infrastructure for TNC. “We shared valuable experiences on innovative environmental compensation policies and best corporate practices that will be very useful for policy and businesses to achieve avoid, reduce and compensate impacts from hydropower projects, while promoting positive benefits for people. We are excited to be promoting a new path for sustainability in Latin America and a renovated commitment by key actors in the hydropower sector”.
The Latin America region is experiencing dynamic growth and requires large investments in infrastructure to generate electricity. Governments are promoting increased capacity for energy generation and national energy security, and also a shift towards cleaner sources of energy such as hydropower. Latin America is the region most abundant in water resources, with 30 percent of the Earth’s available freshwater resources
Hydropower has a larger share of the energy mix than in any other region worldwide, and comparative advantages in many markets. With a potential installed hydropower capacity of about 140,000 MW and significant plans for new development, the region is at the forefront of expansion and investment in the global hydropower sector. But this should be done in a smart, sustainable way that protects nature for people and future generations.”
Projects need to be selected and designed in a way that will be acceptable to regulators, banks and affected communities, incorporating better watershed management that seeks to avoid and resolve controversial environment and social issues. These include planning mechanisms such as Strategic Environmental Assessments, and scientific methods such as TNC’s “Hydropower by Design,” which integrates conservation planning with infrastructure planning.
Planning for hydropower development based on a watershed approach, rather than a project – by –project engineering decision, was one of the most important discussion topics at the Innovation Laboratory. Participants discussed how the decision-making power relies on government planning agencies. Environmental licensing was also addressed, and corporations recognize a role for governments to play in guaranteeing the quality of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as well as in determining ecological compensations for infrastructure development.
The example of Peru was highlighted, given the recent creation of a new licensing agency, National Service for Environmental Certification (SENACE, Servicio Nacional de Certificación Ambiental), and the opportunity this presents to adopt the best possible regulations for environmental management related to infrastructure development. The participants discussed the lessons learned from forty years of environmental impact assessment that have been conducted in Latin America, and the importance of the licensing process to direct how projects are implemented in a manner that will have the minimum possible impacts.
The Latin America-China Lab produced critical input that will be used at a meeting scheduled to take place in October: the IDB China-LAC Business Summit 2014 in Changsha, China, an important venue for furthering the dialogue about sustainable hydropower development in Latin America. A report with key findings will be presented in preparation for the summit.
The commitment of the LACC is to engage businesses, governments and lending agencies to design Latin America’s infrastructure projects to avoid, or dramatically reduce their impact on natural capital. An ongoing dialogue with China is crucial, both for the LACC and its members, especially in relation to hydropower and to promote corporate best practices.
The LACC and TNC are committed to the expansion of its partnership and support of the Latin America Conservation Council’s smart infrastructure work plan. The plan calls for designing Latin America’s major energy, mining, and transport infrastructure to have no net impact on natural capital by avoiding, minimizing, and compensating for environmental impacts. Convening public and private stakeholders to advocate for coordinated, whole-basin planning, the work plan calls for continuing to strengthen proactive planning, best practice construction standards, and compensation schemes that increase conservation and sustainable development for area residents, while building the capacity for government oversight.
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