Letter: Concerning the Green Climate Fund and large hydropower

Letters

The 282 undersigned organizations write to express our significant concern regarding the use of GCF resources to support large hydropower, and, in particular, the following proposals in the GCF’s pipeline: (i) Qairokkum Hydropower Rehabilitation, Tajikistan; (ii) Upper Trishuli-1, Nepal; and (iii) Tina River Hydro Project, Solomon Islands. 

The GCF can and should help pay for the incremental costs of renewable energy sources, which are often less “bankable” (though less so all the time). However, we wish to highlight that large dams are different from wind, solar and other technologies because they fail to fulfill the GCF Investment Criteria. For example: 

(i) Impact potential: Dams emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, and damage carbon sinks; 

(ii) Paradigm shift potential: Large hydro is a non-innovative technology that has not seen significant technical or financial breakthroughs in decades; 

(iii) Sustainable development: Dams have high negative co-impacts with regard to the environment, human rights, and economic cost. By interrupting rivers and flooding lands, they irreversibly harm livelihoods and ecosystems. Because they routinely cost double their estimates, large dams stretch government budgets and increase borrowing costs;

(iv) Needs of the recipient: Hydropower projects are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and many countries are already alarmingly over-dependent on hydropower (as is the case with Tajikistan and Nepal). GCF should support efforts in these countries to diversify their energy mix, helping them improve their resilience and adaptive capacities; and, 

(v) Efficiency and effectiveness: Dams all over the world are losing generation capacity because of climate change-induced droughts. 

In addition, each of the dam-related projects in the GCF’s pipeline suffers significant deficiencies: 

  • Qairokkum Hydropower Rehabilitation: This funding proposal is expected at the April board meeting. The board should reject it. The project aims to extend the life of a Soviet-era dam, built in the 1950s. It is not innovative in any way, deepens Tajikistan’s already alarming overdependence on climate-vulnerable hydro, and fails to address critical environmental problems of the original dam, among other concerns. 
  • Upper Trishuli-1: Though not up for consideration at the April board meeting, Upper Trishuli has been in the project pipeline for many months and should be expeditiously removed from it. With more than 30 hydro projects either operating, in construction, or planned on the Trishuli River, the project would have no transformational impact. It faces severe climate and disaster risks, would deepen Nepal’s overdependence on climate-vulnerable hydro, and would have significant impacts on indigenous communities and the environment that have not been adequately studied or addressed. There is also no assessment of the project’s vulnerability to earthquakes, despite the area being highly seismic. 
  • Tina River Hydro Project: Expected at the April board meeting, this 15 MW project is intended to reduce the Solomon Islands’ reliance on imported diesel. The project does not include an assessment of climate vulnerability, threatens a world-class biodiversity hotspot, and is very costly. Meanwhile, Solomon Islands has considerable renewable energy potential that has not been sufficiently studied.

These issues and others are detailed in a letter sent previously to the Board. Thank you for your attention to this most important matter. We look forward to working with you and the Secretariat to ensure that the GCF is a transformational institution of the highest social and environmental caliber. That cannot be accomplished if the GCF finances large hydropower.