Energy transition and biodiversity, an opportunity to protect the natural balance

18 October, 2023

The evolution of traditional energy sources towards greener and more sustainable alternatives is essential to reduce emissions in a key sector for social well-being, such as the energy sector.

We need energy for multiple uses, such as heating our homes, cooking, travelling and producing basic necessities, but this energy must be environmentally friendly.  For this reason, the European Union has a binding target to use at least 32% renewables for energy consumption by 2030 and has developed a Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 that is not only about avoiding but also about restoring the damage caused to our planet’s biodiversity.

We need energy for multiple uses but this energy must be environmentally friendly

The importance of biodiversity in the energy transition

Alternative forms of energy, such as solar energy, wind energy, renewable hydrogen or biofuels allow us to maintain energy production. Estimates indicate that two-thirds of the increase in electricity demand between now and 2030 – which is expected to be 83% – will be supported by alternative energies.

The climate crisis is a complex problem and has multiple implications. It is necessary to implement various strategies that, together, help to alleviate this great challenge.

The energy transition is one of the main ways to reduce pollutant emissions, but it needs to be approached with nature and its biodiversity in mind

The energy transition is clearly one of the main ways we have to reduce polluting emissions; but it needs to be approached with nature and biodiversity in mind, preserving the ecosystems that sustain life on our planet. And this is another of humankind’s great targets in order to guarantee a future for the next generations.

The European Union is aware of the importance of the energy transition and biodiversity, as well as the link between climate change and nature. This is why it has a programme called LIFE for the period 2021 – 2027 that aims to transform the EU into a prosperous and just society, with a modern, efficient and competitive economy. To this end, it proposes carbon neutrality by 2050, decoupling growth from resource use, as well as the protection of the continent’s natural capital and the well-being of citizens.

Biodiversity protection

The wide variety of life forms on Earth are linked together, forming part of a balance that enables, among other things, human well-being.

More than half of the world’s GDP depends on nature and the services it provides. In this regard, more than 75% of food crops depend on animal pollination, i.e., our food needs insect species that have been reduced in number by 40% in recent decades. It is not the only example of how much we need nature: the livelihoods of more than 3 billion people in the world depend on marine biodiversity; an ecosystem that contains 90% of the world’s species.

More than half of the world’s GDP depends on nature and the services it provides

However, human activity itself is responsible for exerting pressure on natural systems that, in many cases, exceeds their resilience. According to a study recently published in the journal Science Advances, six of the nine planetary boundaries have already been exceeded: climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, synthetic chemicals including plastics, freshwater depletion and nitrogen use.

Positive impacts of the energy transition on nature

By advancing the energy transition, the most harmful consequences can be avoided, positively influencing biodiversity conservation in a number of ways:

  • The reduction of air pollution from the energy transition itself has a positive impact on air quality and thus on the health of ecosystems and the conservation of species.
  • Renewable energy sources and energy efficiency mean less use of natural resources. This reduces pressure on sensitive ecosystems and avoids overexploitation of resources.
  • The energy transition helps mitigate climate change, which threatens the lives of many species and ecosystems affected by alterations in weather patterns.
  • The installation of offshore wind farms can help to create marine sanctuaries. These protected areas help conserve marine life and habitat by preventing fishing in their vicinity, reducing underwater noise caused by human activity and can act as artificial reefs (as well as reducing emissions).

However, a holistic approach to the energy transition is needed to address environmental challenges and build a future in harmony with nature. The energy transition is not only an opportunity, but also an urgent responsibility to redirect the current trajectory of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. So, by deploying it, we will be helping to protect ecosystems that sustain our very existence and biodiversity on the planet.