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Impacts of Renewable Energy on Global Biodiversity

A Cambridge Conservation Initiative project concerning the relationship between renewable energy and conservation of birdlife

Climate change poses a significant and increasing risk for biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services. Urgent mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions is essential to reduce the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. However, mitigation may also increase extinction risk through the unintended impacts of renewable energy developments, such as wind farms or biofuel. Despite this, there has been no global assessment of the likely vulnerability of biodiversity to renewable energy at the scales at which they will need to be deployed for effective mitigation. Given rapidly rising renewable energy development, this is urgently needed to inform policies to minimise conflict between mitigation and biodiversity conservation, as recognised by the latest IPCC report.

Whilst there have been a number of global assessments of climate change impacts upon species, there is an urgent need to perform a comparable assessment for renewable energy, as called for by the IPCC. This project will achieve this, delivering high-impact journal papers, species assessments of vulnerability to large-scale energy deployment, global maps to inform spatial planning and cumulative impacts of that deployment, and policy-relevant outputs to inform industry, international financial institutions, regulatory bodies and conservation organisations on how deployment can be sensitive to needs for species protection.

Previous global assessments have highlighted the significant threat climate change poses to species. However, effective mitigation of climate change will require the large-scale deployment of renewable energy technologies, which could also have detrimental consequences for biodiversity. This project is undertaking a global assessment of the impacts of different levels of renewable energy generation for birds and mammals. 

For more information, visit the main project website here.

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A key area of research at 4CMR over the past 5 years has been the development of the Future Technology Transformation model, used in exploring how policies influence global technology and carbon. This includes an on-line visualisation tool so you can view our results.

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4CMR works closely with the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance, with overlapping interests, skills and projects. C-EENRG is also located in the Department of Land Economy, with a core mission to "conduct integrative research on the governance of environmental transitions, understood as social and technological processes driven by environmental constraints that lead to fundamental changes in social organisation."

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