Why is it that when we advocate for something to the international financial institutions (IFIs) they often manage to give it a peculiar twist of their own?
Such is the case with renewable energy. We wanted sustainable, new renewable energy sources, but what do we get? Big hydro. Yes, the same old so-last-century big hydro that has been destroying nature and livelihoods for decades (pdf).
Regular visitors to our blog will already be familiar with Georgia’s ongoing conversion into an electricity socket for Turkey – with few benefits but serious risks for Georgians and their environment – but now the hydro trend looks set to spread to the Balkans.
Both projects threaten protected natural areas: Boskov Most hydropower plant would be built within the Mavrovo National Park right on the area where the very rare Balkan lynx lives, while the Ombla plant would be built in a cave with five species of protected bats and numerous other rare cave-dwelling species like the eccentric-looking Proteus anguinus, sometimes known as the ‘human fish’. Both Mavrovo and the Ombla spring area are due to be Natura 2000 sites when Macedonia and Croatia join the EU, and in both cases the environmental assessment procedures have been seriously flawed.
Every day I see IFIs financing projects I don’t agree with, but even I’m shocked by this. It’s well known that there is a problem with EU accession countries rushing to build destructive infrastructure projects before they become EU members and can be penalised for violating EU environmental legislation, yet here is a European public bank that looks set to finance this very practice.
So my message to the European Commission and the EBRD’s Board of Directors is simply: We’re counting on you. Don’t rush into these projects. Both Croatia and Macedonia have serious potential for new renewables such as solar, wind and sustainable biomass, and for increased energy efficiency, but they are underdeveloped. The EBRD is one of the institutions that is best placed to send a clear message to the Croatian and Macedonian governments to do something about this, but will it do so, or just finance whatever is on the governments’ shopping lists?
Image source: rgbtock.com
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