Workshop on the EIB’s draft Guideline for Investments in Hydropower Development
- Jun 11, 2018
On 11 June, the EIB organised a workshop in Brussels to present its draft Environmental, Climate and Social Guideline for Investments in Hydropower Development (the “Guideline”) and collect feedback from a wide range of stakeholders on the objectives and the criteria that shall guide the EIB’s approach to appraising and monitoring future hydropower projects.
Setting out EIB’s requirements and ambition regarding hydropower sustainability
Hydropower is currently the largest source of renewable power worldwide, and therefore an important contributor to low-carbon “clean development”. However, the development of hydropower has also been criticised because of its potential negative environmental and social impacts. As the experts from the EIB’s Environmental, Climate and Social Office (ECSO) and Energy Department explained during the event, the purpose of the new EIB Guideline is to clearly spell out the standards and criteria that promoters of future hydropower projects financed by the EIB must meet. The Guideline also summarises recommendations in integrating social, biodiversity, natural resources management and climate considerations into hydropower projects, building on EU and international best practices. With this two–fold approach (articulating mandatory requirements as well as recommendations), the Guideline captures both risks and opportunities in more sustainable hydropower development.
As further explained during the workshop, the Guideline is not only a “toolkit” for the Bank’s staff and project promoters, but it shall also serve as a reference for a broad variety of stakeholders with interest in hydropower projects, including governmental agencies and civil society. As such, it was developed through a Bank-wide consultation and has benefitted from input from a variety of external stakeholders since the early stages of the drafting process. This workshop is a continuation of this feedback collection process.
Establishing a strategic and integrated approach
The Guideline constitutes a clear and concise statement of the EIB’s commitment to improve the sustainability of hydropower development projects. It puts an emphasis on compliance with the EU legislation and with the EIB’s Environmental and Social Standards. Rather than duplicating them, it focuses on spelling out those issues that are specifically relevant to hydropower development to be taken into account from the early stages of the project development cycle, preferably during the pre-feasibility stage.
The Guideline currently consists of 78 requirements and recommendations across 6 key topics which are formulated in a way that they can be applied for hydropower projects both within and outside the EU. This includes environmental issues and impacts, such as biodiversity degradation and loss, but also social issues such as resettlement, cultural heritage and ecosystem services. The Guideline further covers aspects related to climate, strategic and basin-wide issues, reservoir and dam safety as well as monitoring requirements.
Essential issues of hydropower development and their related risks must be identified at an early planning stage and require an integrated approach to water resources planning at river basin level. A lot of emphasis is also put on the need to evaluate alternative options, taking into account energy security objectives and broader economic aspects, integrating the various externalities into the economic assessment of the project. The Guideline also sets out the basis for more robust and transparent governance and stakeholder engagement practices throughout the project.
Finalising the Guideline: integrating civil society perspectives
In the subsequent Q&A, civil society representatives welcomed the Bank’s ambition to provide clear directions for project promoters and other stakeholders on hydropower investments, and recognised the value of its overall approach. However, some participants highlighted the difficulty to apply the Guideline across a broad range of projects under conditions that differ widely between countries. Other stakeholders asked to specify how in particular the social criteria related to the protection of indigenous people, or access to information should be carried out in countries with difficult governance structures.
The discussion also covered a number of specific questions, for example on how the Guideline integrates the issue of ecosystem services, livelihood and conflict sensitivity, as well as what legislation should be specifically mentioned in the final document. The importance of a sound, alternative options’ analysis during the EIB´s project appraisal process was highlighted. Overall, both the EIB experts and several participants stressed that applicability and clarity of the guidelines are key.
On the process side, there was a consensus on the need to involve as many stakeholders as possible in the elaboration of the Guideline. As previously communicated, the Bank invites all stakeholders interested to comment on the draft guideline to submit their feedback in writing to the Bank (email@example.com) by Thursday, 12 July. In the second half of the year, the Bank will review and update the draft based on stakeholder comments. The final Guideline will published towards the end of 2018.
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