LONDON, April 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Growing
investment in renewable energy projects around the world is
sparking more conflicts over land and resources in areas where
they are built – a worry investors need to keep in mind, finance
and human rights groups said Wednesday.
Last year, a planned $150 million Kenyan wind park was
cancelled after protests and land disputes, according to a
report by the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource
Centre and two investor group partners.
Another wind farm in the Mexican state of Oxaca, similarly,
has been stalled for years after a dispute over access by local
people to project land.
Such conflicts, which are on the rise as countries rush to
meet clean energy goals under the Paris Agreement on climate
change, can result in losses for investors – and slowdowns in
getting renewable energy online – unless investors take care to
ensure communities and local rights are protected, the report
"We see a very strong need for renewable energy to tackle
climate change, but we want to make sure that the renewable
energy sector and investors don't make the same mistakes as past
energy (investors)" in things like coal and oil, said Eniko
Horvath, a senior research with the Business & Human Rights
"We are increasingly seeing more and more allegations
against wind and hydropower companies in particular," she told
the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.
"That's why we decided ... to raise awareness about it and
make sure renewable energy investment goes ahead but in a way
that respects human rights."
Currently only five of 50 wind and hydropower companies
surveyed around the world appear to have a clear focus on
respecting the rights of indigenous people and ensuring their
projects have been given what is known as "free, prior and
informed consent" by local people, said Phil Bloomer, the
centre's executive director.
That's a concern as investment in renewable energy projects
jumps, from $62 billion in 2004 to $287 billion last year, the
Money is expected to continue to pour into renewables as
investors look for attractive returns in a market with
relatively few other attractive options, it said.
About 65 percent of the world's land area is held by local
communities and indigenous people under customary law systems,
the report noted – but only 18 percent of it is formally
recognised by governments, a gap that could lead to conflicts or
displacement as energy projects set up.
Since 2005, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
has received 115 reports of harm to local communities as a
result of renewable projects, mainly as a result of land
disputes but also violence and killings, it said.
Horvath said some investors are becoming aware of the
potential risks – including high legal costs and damage to
reputation – when clean energy projects are slowed or cancelled
as a result of protests. But they remain a minority, she said.
"We're definitely seeing some movement among investors but
it's definitely still a small group who are taking action," she
said. "It's great they're focusing on climate change and
renewable energy – but they need to be aware of the risks."
(Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; editing by Ros
Russell:; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking
and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate)