Migratory species and climate change

Sustainability may start at home, but many environmental challenges require the cooperation of multiple countries – and international agreements help to create a framework for such collaboration. For example, diverse nations, sometimes at opposite ends of the globe, share a responsibility to care for and protect migratory species and their habitats. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) lays the legal foundation for the protection of migratory species throughout their range. Nations also have a global responsibility to minimise climate change. The Paris Agreement, which came into force in late 2016, aims to promote cooperation beyond borders and keep the global rise in temperature below two degrees Celsius.

Decision-makers are faced with a dilemma: access to affordable, reliable and clean energy is a global priority, yet poorly located wind farms, power lines and other energy infrastructure can present a significant threat to migratory species. How can countries reconcile the need for the rapid deployment of renewable energy while protecting migratory species? The multi-stakeholder Energy Task Force has been established by a resolution of the Convention on Migratory Species to help address this challenge.

The first Energy Task Force meeting was held in Cape Town on 1 and 2 December 2016 and was attended by country members (including South Africa) and civil society members (including BirdLife International). One of the aims of the meeting was to exchange information, experience and good practice, and organisations were invited to present case studies to help lay the foundation for subsequent discussions. BirdLife South Africa was honoured to be among the organisations invited to share our experiences and insights.

An outcome of the meeting was the ‘Cape Town Declaration on reconciling renewable energy and power line development with migratory species conservation’, which calls on policy-makers and regulators to develop, implement and evaluate strategic environmental assessment and strategic planning processes to minimise environmental impacts, reduce social conflict and facilitate responsible energy development. It also encourages the energy sector, regulators and financial institutions to utilise decision support tools and demonstrates best practice to avoid, mitigate and monitor impacts, including cumulative ones, on migratory species and their habitats. The Energy Task Force has committed to a collaborative programme of work and will facilitate the involvement of a wide range of relevant stakeholders. BirdLife South Africa looks forward to participating in its future initiatives.

For more information, contact Samantha Ralston-Paton at energy@birdlife.org.za

The CMS Guidelines and Declaration can be downloaded here.