A Biodiversity-Positive Energy Transition is Urgently Needed – It is Time to Connect the Dots
By, Rasmus Skov, Head of Global External Affairs and Positioning
In this article, Rasmus Skov, Head of Global External Affairs and Positioning at Ørsted sheds light on why a biodiversity-positive energy transition is urgently needed.
Ørsted will also be joining this year's World Biodiversity Summit, as Summit Partner. At the Summit, Rasmus Skov, Head of Global External Affairs and Positioning will bring forth his leadership insights during the Fireside Chat session about the power of collaboration.
It is great to see the World Biodiversity Summit once again at New York Climate Week. These two global challenges of our time – biodiversity loss and climate change – are so much more deeply connected than the historically parallel global responses to them might suggest. Ørsted is taking action to unlock the urgent opportunity of a biodiversity-positive energy transition, and we are inviting others to join us.
We know what we need to do for nature: build clean energy, the right way and in the right places, as quickly as possible.
Ørsted is expanding our leadership in decarbonisation with action to deliver net-positive biodiversity impact for all new renewable projects we commission from 2030.
We are calling on the wider energy industry, environmental NGOs and policymakers to work with us to integrate action on climate and biodiversity to advance global goals.
Why we are Talking About Biodiversity During Climate Week?
Climate week is about action to create a better future for humanity. Biodiversity restoration goals are targeting the same goal. And connected crises demand connected solutions.
A biodiversity-positive energy transition is not only the right thing to do for people and the nature we depend upon; it is also what makes sense when it comes to delivering on the unprecedented renewable energy expansion being targeted globally to meet climate goals. As we deploy this infrastructure, integrating biodiversity-enhancing measures will be key to ensuring a continued mandate for the pace and scale of construction needed.
And biodiversity really matters. Together with the functional ecosystems it creates, biodiversity is truly our life support system. It provides us with the fundamentals of our survival – clean air, water, food and medicine – and is integral to global prosperity, with over half the world’s total GPD dependent on nature.
Biodiversity is also our greatest natural defense against climate change. Nature-based climate solutions – actions that protect or restore ecosystems in support of climate goals – hold the potential to deliver an estimated one-third of the climate mitigation needed. Ecosystems such as tropical forest, seagrass and saltmarsh hold huge carbon capture potential. Higher biodiversity leads to higher rates of carbon stored in soil and marine sediment as well as improved ecosystems resilience, which is increasingly critical for climate-vulnerable communities.
Notably, not only is restoring biodiversity critical to meeting climate goals, but climate change is also a large and growing driver of biodiversity loss. The situation is critical: since 1970 we have seen a 69% reduction in wildlife populations, and today one million species are under threat. The risk of species extinction increases with every degree of warming. In turn biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are diminishing the planet’s natural capacity for climate regulation, mitigation, and adaptation.
In short, if we are to meet net-zero emissions goals and a good future for humanity, halting and reversing the degradation of nature must unequivocally be part of the equation.
“Restoring biodiversity is key to meeting climate goals. At the same time, climate change is one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss today. Renewable energy holds huge potential to unite and accelerate action on both crises, and I’m delighted to be part of Ørsted bringing this important discussion to NYCW together with the World Climate Foundation.”
- Rasmus Skov, Head of Global External Affairs & Positioning
Why has Ørsted Made Biodiversity our Business?
If climate change is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss, then we know what we need to do for nature: build clean energy, in the right way, in the right places, as quickly as possible.
Ørsted is committed to playing a central role in the fight against climate change and we see huge opportunity to improve the world’s success in this by advocating for, and acting on, a rapid and biodiversity-positive energy transition.
It goes without saying that this starts with continued and rigorous application of established measures to avoid, minimise and mitigate local environmental impacts when deploying renewable energy. This shores-up our industry’s value in helping to halt climate-driven biodiversity loss.
But it is time for higher ambition with renewable energy: it can and must also help to actively restore biodiversity. This is why, in 2021, building on our industry-leading decarbonisation journey, Ørsted set the ambition to deliver net-positive biodiversity impact for all new renewable energy projects we commission, from 2030 at the latest.
Biodiversity is core to our business strategy for three principal reasons.
First, a biodiversity-positive energy transition offers huge opportunity to amplify all we are doing to act on climate change. The science is clear that, collectively, we stand a far greater chance of meeting urgent global goals on climate if we simultaneously support nature in its capacity to be on our side in that pursuit.
Second, ensuring the energy transition is biodiversity-positive will be key to securing the social license needed to deliver the scale and speed of renewable energy expansion that global climate goals demand. This work also helps us build in the direction that we know investors and civil society want on top of our experience delivering renewable projects.
Finally, sustainability leadership is both the right thing to do and what Ørsted stands for. We are clear that, today, this means leadership on carbon and biodiversity. By demonstrating what is possible, we are committed to leading the way for biodiversity-positive renewable energy to become the norm, and to lay the ground for a rapid and sustainable energy transition of the scale the world needs.
So, How Do We Unlock the Potential of a Biodiversity-Positive Energy Transition?
The world needs collective action at the international and national level, between the energy industry, environmental NGOs, policymakers, academics, investors, and local communities.
The bedrock of credible action on both climate and biodiversity must be rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, now. Extraction, processing and transportation of fossil fuels causes pollution and direct degradation of nature, on top of the climate-change driven biodiversity loss that burning fossil fuel creates.
Alongside this we need to speed-up renewable energy deployment. This means finding a way to address the huge challenges facing our industry today, such as inflationary and supply chain pressures, and policy and regulatory frameworks that haven’t kept up with the scale and urgency of the task at hand.
Next, we need to unite action on climate and biodiversity. For our part, at Ørsted we are working hard to deliver on our biodiversity ambition. This includes investing in a range of pilot projects to test and develop the best measures to deliver net-positive biodiversity impact at scale. Additionally, we are taking steps to ensure this work is scalable, such as development of an impact measurement framework we hope to refine with others to become a useful industry standard and raising finance to further invest in this work offshore as the world’s first energy company to issue a blue bond.
With collaboration and collective action, we can have far greater impact. That is why Ørsted is calling on key actors to step up and join us, with a call to action targeting three priority areas we believe will unlock the scale of opportunity on offer from a biodiversity-positive energy transition.
Our call to action:
1. The entire energy industry must act now – and in line with science
Science-based decarbonisation is the foundation of credible action on nature. Bold and measurable action on biodiversity must come next, and industry collaboration is needed to achieve the best outcomes.
2. Environmental NGOs and the energy sector must work together Joining forces on research and development, restoration projects or advocating together for a more integrated policy approach, combining our shared experience, and demonstrating that we are united on a common goal will be a powerful accelerator of success for climate and biodiversity. 3. Policymakers must enable and incentivise a biodiversity-positive energy transition
The starting point must be recognising that nature protection and climate action are intrinsically linked, and so policy approaches must reflect and capitalise on that synergy. While the precise policy response will need to be tailored to local contexts, two overarching principles are necessary to unlock scalable action: aligning measures for implementation of climate and biodiversity goals, and incentivising investment in biodiversity-positive renewable energy, including robust scientific standards that provide the social license for the scale of buildout needed.
This means moving away from a race to the bottom on price when delivering already cost-competitive renewable technologies, and ensuring action on climate and biodiversity remains a priority in times of inflationary pressure. Instead, let’s create a race to the top for the best long-term, sustainable societal value we can secure from the energy transition.
There is a great deal of work ahead, but if we work together, we will have a greater chance of meeting global goals.
It is great to see the focus on biodiversity in New York this year, and we in Ørsted are grateful to the World Climate Foundation for their role in making that happen. Looking towards COP28, we need to keep biodiversity-positive renewable energy on the agenda. Most of all, this global conversation needs to urgently shift to national-level action.
You can read more about the importance of a biodiversity positive energy transition, what Ørsted is doing about it and what others can to do help, in our new report: Uniting Action on Climate and Biodiversity
Ørsted is a leading green energy major, committed to a sustainable future and a pioneer in the global transition towards renewable energy. Just a decade ago, the company was a coal-intensive utility provider. Today, Ørsted stands as a testament to rapid transformation, focusing exclusively on green energy solutions and committing to an industry-leading biodiversity ambition.
About the Author
Rasmus draws on two decades of experience in the fields of stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and international affairs as he leads Ørsted’s Global External Affairs team. As former head of sustainability and a driving force on Ørsted’s journey to be ranked as the world’s most sustainable corporation in 2020, he now works on several fronts including accelerating global action on renewable energy, climate, and sustainability and delivering multiple societal benefits from Østed. Rasmus is a frequent speaker at international conferences on sustainability and serves/has served on boards and committees including as Chairman of the Board for the Danish chapter of United Nations Global Compact. Rasmus holds a master’s degree in international affairs and political science from the University of Copenhagen.