By: 276 civil society organizations

On behalf of 276 civil society organizations from around the world, we are calling upon the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) to abandon the certification of destructive hydropower projects as climate-friendly. The proposed hydropower criteria developed by CBI and its technical working group fall far short of acceptable standards and practice, and their adoption would pose a significant threat to rivers and the communities and freshwater species that depend on them. 

Risks to CBI Hydropower Criteria

If adopted, the CBI’s hydropower criteria would risk opening up a funding source that could prove profitable to dam operators and institutional investors with Paris-friendly branding, while making no meaningful contribution to stemming the climate crisis. Beyond permitting projects with dubious value to attract a new line of financing, the greatest risk of the proposed criteria is channeling scarce climate dollars toward projects that fail to help us confront the challenge of preventing a 2oC scenario and that exert increased pressure on freshwater biodiversity and the functioning of our water cycle.

In its eagerness to capitalize on the expanding market for climate-certified energy projects, the Climate Bonds Initiative has aligned itself with the International Hydropower Association (IHA), an industry body created to promote the interests of hydro companies and boost their image. In recent years, the IHA has rolled out a series of tools and guidance and advocated their use in lieu of established international standards and mechanisms for assessing the costs and benefits of hydropower. 

The adverse environmental and social impacts of destructive hydroelectric dams are now well understood, ranging from displacing and impoverishing millions, particularly indigenous peoples, to driving the extinction of freshwater species and fragmenting rivers. Yet the CBI proposes to adopt the IHA’s own environmental, social and governance assessment tool as their principal source of assessment and verification. This would amount to little more than a box ticking exercise conducted by assessors accredited by the IHA itself – a glaring conflict of interest that lacks any meaningful oversight – making a mockery of international standards and conventions designed to protect rivers and the rights of communities. This would also be at odds with positive approaches adopted within the existing CBI standard for water infrastructure. 

Besides profound damage to the hydrosphere – an important part of global climate system – hydropower reservoirs emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases, especially in the tropics. Dam reservoirs emit methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, and are a significant contributor to the climate crisis. Yet CBI’s proposed criteria set such a low bar that even high-emitting dams would qualify for CBI certification. This problem is compounded by CBI’s proposal to use the IHA’s own non-transparent emissions calculation tool, which systematically underestimates the greenhouse gas emissions from dams. Methane emissions from dams are highest in the first years of operation, thus incentivizing hydropower would contribute to a spike in emissions at the precise moment the world is trying to reduce GHG emissions to arrest the worst impacts of climate change.

The Promise of Climate Finance

Climate financing has the potential to play a critical role in ensuring positive outcomes for rivers. This could include: protecting threatened freshwater resources; restoring flows that facilitate reconnection of fragmented ecosystems; ensuring cultural and environmental flows determined in consultation with affected peoples; and promoting river restoration efforts such as the decommissioning of obsolete dams. This is of utmost importance because our freshwater resources are vital to sustain in an era of climate change. The CBI has already issued a separate standard for water infrastructure, which took an important step to help promote nature-based solutions to addressing climate change. 

CBI’s hydropower criteria, on the other hand, would represent a step backward, sanctioning business-as-usual energy practices that further threaten our rivers. If approved, it would exacerbate global threats to freshwater biodiversity, undermine the cultural values and human rights of affected communities, and fail to make progress toward addressing the climate crisis. It would at the same time damage the reputation of the Climate Bonds Initiative and contribute to discrediting green bond finance mechanisms in general. Therefore, we call upon the CBI, its board and advisory bodies to abandon their pursuit of a hydropower standard that caters to the hydropower industry instead of providing meaningful solutions to address the climate crisis.

Civil Society Statement

List of endorsing organizations:

  1. Abibiman Foundation, Ghana
  2. Action for Improvement of Food Child and Mother (AFICM), DRC
  3. Actions pour les Droits, l’Environnement et la Vie (ADEV), DRC
  4. Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT), Cambodia
  5. Alternatives Durables pour le Développement, Cameroon
  6. Älvräddarnas Samorganisation, Sweden
  7. Amazon Watch, United States
  8. Amigos de la Tierra España (FoE Spain)
  9. Amigos del Viento Meteorología Ambiente Desarrollo, Uruguay
  10. Amis de l’Afrique Francophone (AMAF)-Benin
  11. Apt Succor Organization, South Sudan
  12. Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment, Armenia
  13. Arnika, Czech Republic
  14. Asamblea por la Defensa del Río Tajo de Aranjuez, Spain
  15. Asociacion Ambiente y Sociedad, Colombia
  16. Association “Baikal Trail-Buryatia”, Russia
  17. Association des Jeunes pour le Développement, Mauritania
  18. Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, India
  19. Association of patriotic upbringing “Master of His Land”, Russia
  20. Associazione Salvaguardia Val Mastallone, Italy
  21. ATTAC, France
  22. Balkani Wildlife Society, Bulgaria
  23. Balkanka Association, Bulgaria
  24. Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA)
  25. Bank Information Center, United States
  26. Bank Information Center Europe, The Netherlands
  27. Barwaaqo Voluntary Organisations, Somaliland 
  28. Biodiversity Conservation Center, Russia
  29. Biofuelwatch, UK
  30. Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia
  31. Black Sea Women’s Club, Ukraine
  32. Both ENDS, The Netherlands
  33. Bretton Woods Project, UK
  34. Brot Für Die Welt, Germany
  35. Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO), Uganda
  36. Buryat Regional Union for Baikal (BRUB), Russia
  37. Cambodian Volunteers for Society (CVS), Cambodia
  38. Carbon Market Watch, Belgium
  39. Centar za životnu sredinu/ Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina
  40. Center for Participatory Research and Development (CPRD), Bangladesh
  41. Center for Protection and Research of Birds, Montenegro
  42. Center for Water Resources Conservation and Development (WARECOD), Vietnam
  43. Centre de Formation et d’Action pour le Développement (CFAD), DRC
  44. Centre for Environment, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  45. Centre for Financial Accountability, India
  46. Centre for Initiative Against Human Trafficking (CIAHT-Ghana)
  47. Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, India 
  48. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.”, Ecuador
  49. Centro ibérico de restauración fluvial CIREF, Spain
  50. CESTA Amigos de la Tierra, El Salvador
  51. China-Latin America Sustainable Investments Initiative
  52. Christian International Eswatini
  53. Circolo Legambiente Val Trebbia, Italy
  54. CIRF – Italian Centre for River Restoration
  55. Citizens’ Committee of Tonegawa Basin, Japan
  56. Clean Water Center, Russia
  57. Climate Watch Thailand
  58. Coalition for Rivers, Czech Republic
  59. Coalition for Sustainable Development (KOR), Montenegro
  60. Colonia Z-16 De Pescadores, Brazil
  61. Comitato Difesa Torrente Pesarina, Italy
  62. Comitato No Tube Piacenza, Italy
  63. Comitato per la Salvaguardia e Tutela di Cortlys, Italy
  64. Comitato Peraltrestrade Dolomiti, Italy
  65. Committee for Water in Tokyo, Japan
  66. Commons and Safeguards, Philippines
  67. Commons BC, Canada
  68. Community and Family Aid Foundation-Ghana
  69. Community Empowerment and Social Justice (CEMSOJ) Network, Nepal
  70. Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC), Thailand
  71. Conseil Regional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement, DRC
  72. Conservación Humana AC, Mexico
  73. Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF-Brazil)
  74. Coordinadora Ciudadana No Alto Maipo, Chile
  75. Coordinamento Nazionale Tutela Fiumi-Free Rivers Italia
  76. Crimean Republican Association Ekologiya i Mir, Russia 
  77. Culture and Environment Preservation Association, Cambodia
  78. DOPPS-BirdLife Slovenia
  79. Društvo narava Pohorja, Slovenia
  80. Društvo za raziskovanje, ohranjnje in trajnostni razvoj Dinaridov Dinaricum, Slovenia
  81. Druzhina okhrany prirody Dzerzhinska, Russia
  82. Earth Rights International, Thailand
  83. EcoAlbania
  84. Ecological Association ”Rzav-God Save Rzav”, Serbia
  85. Ecological Center DRONT, Russia
  86. Ecological Society of Sokobanja, Serbia
  87. Ecosistemas, Chile
  88. Eko “Bistro”, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  89. Eko Element, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  90. Ekologistak Martxan, Basque Country
  91. EMACE Foundation of Sri Lanka
  92. Environmental Center for Development Education and Networking (EDEN Center), Albania
  93. Environnement Sans Frontière (ESF), DRC
  94. EPN Consultants Limited, Jamaica 
  95. Estrategia – Center of Investigation and Action for Urban Development, Peru
  96. EuroNatur Foundation, Germany
  97. European Water Movement
  98. Eyge Environmentai Education Center, Russia
  99. FightC, Canada
  100. Fisheries Action Coalition Team, Cambodia
  101. Fobomade, Bolivia
  102. Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India
  103. Fórum Mato-grossense de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento (Formad), Brazil
  104. Fórum Mudanças Climáticas e Justiça Socioambiental (FMCJS), Brazil
  105. Fórum Nacional da Sociedade Civil nos Comitês de Bacias Hidrográficas (FONASCCBH), Brazil
  106. Forum nazionale Salviamo il Paesaggio, Italy
  107. Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philippines
  108. Friends of Lake Turkana, Kenya
  109. Friends of the Earth U.S.
  110. Friends with Environment in Development, Uganda
  111. Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN), Argentina
  112. Fundacion Cauce: Cultura Ambiental, Causa Ecologista, Argentina
  113. Fundacion Chile Sustentable, Chile
  114. Fundación Global Nature, Spain
  115. Fundación La Hendija, Unidad de Vinculación Ecologista, Argentina
  116. Fundación Montecito, Colombia
  117. GAIA Kosovo
  118. Gautam Buddha Jagriti Society, India
  119. GEADIRR, Cameroon
  120. GegenStroemung – CounterCurrent, Germany
  121. Global and Community Action Team at Kamloops United Church, Canada
  122. Global Forest Coalition
  123. Global Non-State Actors Disaster Risk Reduction Network, Kenya
  124. Global Rights, Nigeria
  125. Good Choice Nepal
  126. Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, inc, Canada 
  127. Green Advocates International, Liberia
  128. Green Alternative, Georgia
  129. Green Innovation and Development Centre, Vietnam
  130. Grow with the Flow, The Netherlands
  131. Guild of Environmental Journalist of the St.Petersburg and Leningradskaya Province, Russia
  132. Heinrich Böll Stiftung Washington, DC, United States
  133. Holarctic Bridges, Canada
  134. HOPE Worldwide-Pakistan, New Zealand
  135. HRM “Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan”
  136. ibdnext technoprise, Bangladesh
  137. Inclusive Development International, United States
  138. Initiative for the Development of Africa (IDA-Ghana)
  139. Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, North (Turkish) Kurdistan
  140. Institute for Environmental Policy, Albania
  141. Instituto Caracol, Brazil
  142. Instituto Madeira Vivo (IMV), Brazil
  143. Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
  144. International Accountability Project (IAP)
  145. International Rivers
  146. Interregional NGO “Center for Public Health”, Russia
  147. JAGO NARI (Fighting For Women Empowerment), Bangladesh
  148. Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya
  149. Japan River Keeper Alliance
  150. Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement, Togo
  151. Jhanjira Samaj Kallyan Sangstha (JSKS), Bangladesh
  152. KAIROS BC-Yukon, Canada
  153. Keepers of the Athabasca, Canada
  154. Kostroma Public Movement “For the sake of life”, Russia
  155. Koubaru Project, Japan
  156. Krisoker Sor (Farmers’ Voice), Bangladesh
  157. KRuHA, Indonesia
  158. Legambiente Piacenza Circolo Emilio Politi, Italy
  159. LIR Evolution, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  160. Local Initiatives Development Agency, Kenya
  161. LUTRA, Institute for Conservation of Natural Heritage, Slovenia
  162. Manadisaster Organization, Rwanda
  163. Manushya Foundation, Thailand / Laos
  164. Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA), Greece
  165. Mekong Watch, Japan
  166. Mesopotamia Ecology Movement, North (Turkish) Kurdistan
  167. Milwaukee Riverkeeper, United States
  168. MISEREOR – Catholic Bishop’s Organisation for Development Cooperation, Germany
  169. Mom Loves Taiwan Association, Taiwan
  170. Movimento Tutela Arzino, Italy 
  171. Multi-stakeholders Initiative for Humanitarian Action against Disasters (MIHANDS), Philippines
  172. Museu Goeldi, Brazil
  173. Nak Akphivath Sahakum (NAS), Cambodia
  174. NGO BROC, Vladivostok, Russia
  175. NGO Forum on ADB
  176. NGO Forum on Cambodia
  177. NGO Green Home, Montenegro
  178. NGO Leeway Collective as Balkan River Defence, Slovenia
  179. North American Megadams Resistance Alliance
  180. North Caucasus Environmental Watch, Russia
  181. Olympic 2002 – Plovdiv, Bulgaria
  182. OMEP (World Organisation for Early Childhood Education) Cameroon
  183. ONG ANAD, Mauritania
  184. ONG Mer Bleue, Mauritania
  185. ONG PADJENA, Benin
  186. Onggi River Movement, Mongolia
  187. Operação Amazônia Nativa (OPAN), Brazil
  188. Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia
  189. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
  190. Pambansang Kliusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Philippines
  191. Pashan Baner Tekdi Bachao Kruti Samiti, India
  192. Peace Bridges Organization, Cambodia
  193. Peace Valley Environment Association, Canada
  194. Peace Valley Landowner Association, Canada
  195. Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance, Canada
  196. People and Nature Reconciliation, Vietnam
  197. PIAD, DRC
  198. Pindos Perivallontiki, Greece
  199. Planète Amazone, France
  200. Plataforma contra la especulación urbanística y ambiental de Candeleda, Spain
  201. Plataforma Contra las Interconexiones Eléctricas RECAEL, Spain
  202. Plataforma de Toledo en Defensa del Tajo, Spain
  203. Plataforma por el Hospital Comercial en el Valle del Tiétar, Spain
  204. Plotina.Net, Russia
  205. Poets for the Peace, Canada
  206. Pravo na vodu / Right To Water, Serbia
  207. PREPARED, Pakistan
  208. Projeto Saude e Alegria, Brazil
  209. Pune SPNF, India
  210. PVLA, Canada 
  211. Radanar Ayar Association, Myanmar
  212. Ramsar Network Japan
  213. RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs), Canada
  214. Red por los Ríos Libres, Chile
  215. Red Uruguaya de ONGs Ambientalistas, Uruguay
  216. Rede Pantanal e a Ecoa, Brazil
  217. Respiro Verde Legalberi, Italy
  218. River Intellectuals, The Netherlands
  219. Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition
  220. Rivers without Boundaries-Mongolia
  221. Riverwatch, Austria
  222. Russian Socio-Ecological Union (RSEU)
  223. Sakhalin Environment Watch, Russia
  224. Salviamo il Paesaggio Valdossola, Italy 
  225. Salviamola Fuina, Italy
  226. SAVE Rivers, Malaysia
  227. Save The Tigris Campaign, Iraq
  228. Say “No” to Site C Dam, Canada
  229. Scientists4Mekong, Australia 
  230. Secure Future Africa, Zimbabwe
  231. SFBSP-Burundi
  232. Slovene Dragonfly Society (Slovensko odonatološko društvo), Slovenia
  233. Slovenian Native Fish Society (Društvo za preučevanje rib Slovenije)
  234. Snowfinch, L’Aquila, Italy
  235. Society for Cave Biology, Slovenia
  236. Socio-Ecological Union International
  237. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (SANDRP), India
  238. Stop Site C, Canada
  239. Sukaar Welfare Organization, Pakistan
  240. Sustainable Eel Group, UK
  241. T.e.r.r.a srl, Italy
  242. Taiga Research and Protection Agency, Russia
  243. Tajik Social and Ecological Union, Tajikistan
  244. Tatarstan Socio-ecological Union, Russia
  245. Terre des Jeunes (TDJ), Burundi
  246. The Corner House, UK
  247. The Jordanian Society of Friends of Heritage, Jordan
  248. The Slovenian Association for Bat Research and Conservation, Slovenia
  249. Tinada Youth Organization (TIYO), Kenya
  250. TOKA Albania
  251. Tonle Sap Lake Waterkeeper, Cambodia
  252. Toxic Action Network Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  253. TRADENER, Basque Country
  254. Tri-People’s Organization against Disasters (TRIPOD), Philippines
  255. Udruženje “Temska”, Serbia
  256. Udruženje za zaštitu velike droplje, Serbia
  257. Ukana West 2 Community Based Health Initiative (CBHI), Nigeria
  258. urgewald, Germany
  259. Vasundhara Swachhata Abhiyan, India
  260. Vietnam River Network
  261. VRAT, India
  262. Water Justice and Gender, Peru
  263. Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Canada
  264. Wetland Conservation Centre (Centrum Ochrony Mokradeł), Poland
  265., Uganda
  266. World Heritage Watch, Germany
  267. World Vision Lanka, Sri Lanka
  268. World Wetland Network, Australia
  269. WWT, UK
  270. Yamba Dam Project, Japan
  271. Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, India
  272. Youth For Environment Education And Development Foundation (YFEED Foundation), Nepal
  273. Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP), Cambodia
  274. Zoldo c’è e difende i suoi torrenti, Italy
  275. #SomosMaipo, Chile
  276. 4x4x4 Balkan Bridges, North Macedonia

Featured image: Villagers Gather in Front of World Bank’s Headquarters to Protest Nam Theun 2 Dam | Photo by Premrudee Daorung.