Commentary: Renewable energy industry can benefit from lessons learned in extractives sector to avoid human rights abuses

Author: Erica Westenberg & Katarina Kuai, Natural Resource Governance Institute, Published on: 11 June 2018

"Governance Lessons for a Just Energy Transition: New Energy Plugs into Old Problems," 5 June 2018

In a global economy moving away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels, renewable energy projects offer an increasingly affordable and clean alternative that marks an important advance in environmental sustainability. But from human rights and governance perspectives, the developers of wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass projects face a number of significant challenges. When deciding to extract non-renewable resources, governments must weigh significant community impacts against the potential for transformative economic benefits... Many of the same strategic considerations apply to solar, wind, and hydropower projects...Conflicts have arisen over windfarms’ need to appropriate large tracts of land and large hydropower projects have long been contested due to community displacement and ecosystem destruction.

In order to help address these concerns, standards for free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) have become central to consultation approaches in oil, gas, and mining projects and in many large renewable energy projects. At a recent forum on human rights and renewables held by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center... experts map[ped] out the risks common to both the extractives and renewables industries... To help keep dirty business out of clean energy tenders, the renewables sector could benefit from the transparency normslessons on risk factors and guidance on screening for corruption risks that have developed around extractive sector licensing.... Clean energy can learn lessons from emerging regulation and leading practice on local benefit sharing in the extractives sector. 

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