The Importance of a Biodiversity-Positive Clean Energy Transition

By Nicole Verdi, Head of Government Affairs & Policy, New England Markets for Ørsted North America

In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, sea level rise is driving coastal flooding and erosion. In Connecticut, the loss of wetland habitat threatens species such as the bog turtle while expanding the areas where ticks can thrive. In Maine, the loss of snow cover and rising spring air temperatures are changing forest cover and food availability for species like the Canada lynx, snowshoe hare and American marten.

These are regional examples of two key global challenges of our time: biodiversity loss and climate change.

Climate change is a large and growing driver of biodiversity loss. At the same time, protecting and restoring biodiversity can play a critical role in meeting our shared climate goals. We have seen a 69 percent reduction in wildlife populations since 1970, and 1 million species are under threat. The risk of species extinction increases with every increment of global warming. In turn, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are diminishing the planet’s natural capacity for climate regulation, mitigation, and adaptation.

With these stark challenges in mind, Ørsted has outlined the steps we’re taking to jointly address the climate and biodiversity challenges in a new paper, Uniting Action on Climate and Biodiversity.

Making Biodiversity Our Business

Ørsted is committed to playing a central role in the fight against climate change, and we see huge opportunity to advocate for, and act on, a rapid and biodiversity-positive energy transition. With climate change driving biodiversity loss, we know that we must build clean energy in the right way, in the right places, as quickly as possible. Biodiversity-positive renewable energy must become the norm.

This starts with continued and rigorous application of established measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate local environmental impacts when deploying renewable energy. Thoughtful development practices enhance our industry’s value in helping to halt climate-driven biodiversity loss.

For offshore wind, this means mitigating and minimizing disruptions to marine and coastal animals. At every offshore project we build, we time our work to avoid major periods of fish spawning and marine mammal activity. Dedicated observers monitor for marine mammals during offshore siting and construction. If needed, we pause site investigations and construction activities when marine mammals or sea turtles enter our mitigation zones.

Onshore, we’re collaborating with leading conservation experts and local communities to deliver clean energy projects that support natural ecosystems – from restoring native tallgrass prairies in Kansas to protecting natural wetlands in Texas.

Now, it’s time for even higher ambitions with renewable energy. Our industry can and must also help to actively restore biodiversity. That’s why Ørsted has set a goal to make a net-positive biodiversity impact with all new renewable energy projects we commission from 2030, at the latest.

Unlocking a Biodiversity-Positive Energy Transition

Ørsted is working hard to deliver on our biodiversity ambition. We are investing in pilot projects to test and develop the best ways to deliver net-positive biodiversity impact at scale. Additionally, we are taking steps to ensure this work is scalable, including developing an impact-measurement framework we hope will become the industry standard. And we’re raising funds to further invest in this work offshore, as the world’s first energy company to issue a blue bond.

Ørsted is calling on key actors to step up and join us, with three priority areas we believe will unlock a biodiversity-positive energy transition.

Our call to action:

1. The entire energy industry must act now – and in line with science: Science-based decarbonization is the foundation of credible action on nature.
2. Environmental NGOs and the energy sector must work together: Joining forces on research and development, restoration projects or advocating together for a more integrated policy approach will be a powerful accelerator of success for climate and biodiversity.
3. Policymakers must enable and incentivize a biodiversity-positive energy transition: We need to move away from a race to the bottom on price, while ensuring joint action on climate and biodiversity remains a priority. Let’s create a race to the top for the best long-term, sustainable societal value we can secure from the energy transition.

Biodiversity provides us with the fundamentals of survival – clean air, water, food and medicine. It’s integral to global prosperity, and it’s our greatest natural defense against climate change. There is a great deal of work ahead, but we have a greater chance of meeting our shared goals if we work

You can read more about the importance of a biodiversity positive energy transition, what Ørsted is doing about it and what others can to do help, in our new report: Uniting Action on Climate and Biodiversity.

Photo credit: Ørsted North America

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