Freshwater ecosystems could become the biggest losers of the Paris Agreement

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Abstract

Securing access to energy for a growing population under the international commitment of reduction of greenhouse emissions requires increasing the contribution of renewable sources to the global share. Hydropower energy, which accounts for >80% of green energy, is experiencing a boom fostered by international investment mainly in developing countries. This boom could be further accelerated by the recent climate agreement reached in Paris. Despite its flexibility, hydropower production entails social, economic and ecological risks that need to be carefully considered before investing in the development of potentially thousands of planned hydropower projects worldwide. This is especially relevant given the weak or nonexistent legislation that regulates hydropower project approval and construction in many countries. I highlight the need for adequate policy to provide the Paris Agreement with new financial and planning mechanisms to avoid further and irreversible damage to freshwater ecosystem services and biodiversity.

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