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Viewpoint: Moving Beyond Kyoto: Expert Representation Required!

Carl Vansant
Editor Emeritus

Having more hydropower would seem to be an obvious way of achieving lower greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the path to obtaining more hydro, with its associated low emissions compared to fuel-burning alternatives, is far from simple. Especially, the policy framework that supports the development of hydro is vitally important. And the devil is in the details. The hydro industry needs expert representation in policy forums by people and organizations having the knowledge and skill to appropriately advocate for our interests.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol gave official, worldwide sanction to growing concerns that uncontrolled emissions are driving the world toward calamitous consequences. Today, there's broad (although not universal) agreement among climate scientists that, by mid-century, deep cuts in carbon emissions must be realized.

More hydro is surely one part of the solution. Pursuant to an approach sanctioned under the Kyoto Protocol, hydro has provided more than 12 GW of new Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. And, in doing so, hydro has provided about one-tenth of the carbon credits of the entire CDM scheme. However, if hydro could have been viewed more generously and realistically, it could have contributed much, much more. With effective efforts in presenting our industry's case, we may hope for hydro to obtain more favorable consideration in the future.

Substantial efforts are required to keep hydro well-represented and to work for favorable policies and regulations. Part of this work is to be present for periodic high-level meetings that guide and shape the development of future policies. One such meeting will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. The Copenhagen meeting, called “COP15,” is expected to be important toward setting the direction for a “post-Kyoto” agreement, inasmuch as the current agreement culminates in 2012. [“COP15” is an abbreviated reference for the 15th Conference of Parties -- the signatory/ratifying countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).]

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) will be in Copenhagen representing hydro, helping to ensure that delegates are aware of how hydro can help as an affordable and effective solution, and advocating for policies that aid in the deployment and use of sustainable hydropower. To enhance its efforts, IHA also works with the International Renewable Energy Alliance (REN Alliance), which represents hydro along with the other renewable energies.

The development of international climate management policies is certainly complex, and many issues are involved. It's important that we work with and support IHA, toward enabling hydropower to maximize its role as a solution to mitigating and adapting to climate change.

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