Energy request

CfR.2/2017/1 How are European energy policies affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services in countries globally?

EKLIPSE has published a report on how are European energy policies affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services in countries globally.

The scientists mandated to draft the Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 (GSDR) seek a better understanding of the telecoupling effects of the EU’s low carbon energy policy on biodiversity and ecosystem services in countries globally, from an SDG perspective through two questions:

  1. What are the SDG targets that the EU energy policy tries to pursue (also indirectly) and what are the systemic trade-offs and co-benefits that are created beyond the territorial boundaries, where, at what scale, and who are the affected winners and losers?
  2. What policies and governance mechanisms could remedy these impacts; or in hindsight, how could one have chosen pathways to more sustainable development?

Also a related scientific paper on this request was published. Find it here.  


Requester: Centre for Development and Environment University of Bern - Peter Messerli, Henri Rueff

Date request received: 27 September 2017

Date of the first meeting with requesters and EKLIPSE KCB and Methods Experts: 20 December 2017

Expected deadline for deliverables: Finalized April 2019 


Background and context of the request

While a renewable energy transition is an unavoidable pathway for decarbonisation, some studies documented its effects on marine ecosystems, avian biodiversity, competing for land use for food production, habitat loss and deforestation (i.e biofuels), with potential spill overs beyond the EU territorial boundaries. Other trade-offs may occur such as manufacturing hazards due to a growing demand for extractive resources needed in the fabrication of batteries and solar panels. In addition, important controversies currently animate the political debates centred on the role of nuclear energy and hydropower to support a fossil fuel-free future, yet putting pressure on landscapes, biodiversity and ecosystems in Europe and beyond. The full cost and benefits of opting for renewable energy when compared to the opportunity costs of renouncing conventional ones need to be synthesized through collating existing knowledge and case studies. It is certainly understood that conventional energy sources likewise have impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services globally.

The request builds on the global SGD report. The Global Sustainable Development Board addresses various perspectives of the Sustainable Development Goals, analyzing a way in which the SDG report can help policy members in achieving their agendas, and how we can acquire higher policy coherence.


What are the objectives of the request?

  1. To produce synthesised knowledge on the effect of low-carbon energy policy on biodiversity and ecosystem services beyond the EU boundaries
  2. To better understand the mechanisms by which energy policy interconnects with biodiversity and ecosystems services in an unforeseen way
  3. To inform policy makers, scientists, UN state members on the above issues and provide policy-oriented solutions to anticipate and mitigate these issues


Current status of the request

Building on an extensive literature review of key energy policies in the EU and the renewables energy technologies (RET), (which took place 19-20 November 2018) the potential impacts of different RET on biodiversity and the SDGs have been discussed in an expert workshop and built into an integrated model.

The findings from the workshop along with the preparatory conceptual work have been integrated into the draft final report. The draft results have been delivered to the requester, and the draft report has been reviewed by workshop participants and members of the EKLIPSE KCB. The final report has been released and is available here.


Process documentation of the request

The whole process of the request is documented in the Document of work.

Scoping: 1st Meeting with the requester

On December 20, 2017, a virtual meeting took place between the requester, members of the EKLIPSE Secretariat and the EKLIPSE Knowledge Coordination Body. The aim of this meeting was to go through the request and to clarify the purpose of the request and the expectations of the requester and to discuss how EKLIPSE can help to their purposes.

It was discussed that although the request builds on the global SGD report, this report breaks into smaller scales. Therefore, seen that the energy transition's interests and repercussions are so high, the request should focus on the EU (including the impact of the EU’s energy policy on other countries globally).

Call for knowledge

To explore the range of existing knowledge EKLIPSE launched a Call for Knowledge asking for any reference to material, including grey literature and as yet unpublished results to the topic.

This Call for Knowledge was open from 23rd January to 20th February 2018.

Literature screening

In response to the lack of feedback received to the call for knowledge, the EKLIPSE Secretariat consulted with the EKLIPSE KCB. It was considered worthwhile to continue the scoping of the request. For this purpose, a short adhoc literature screening has been conducted by the EKLIPSE secretariat which yielded another three dozen sources that are relevant to the request. In addition, experts and institutions have been identified, that could be further reached out to in carrying out the request.

2nd Meeting with the requester

On July 4, 2018, a virtual meeting took place between the requester, members of the EKLIPSE Secretariat, the EKLIPSE Knowledge Coordination Body and the EKLIPSE methods group. The draft methodological protocol suggested by the EKLIPSE methods expert working group was discussed and accepted. The methods EWG recommends an expert consultation approach with aspects of Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping and the Del-phi process to address the request. The outputs will consist of a diagrammatic conceptual model of the interlinkages between EU energy policy efforts and sectors, focussing on trade-offs and synergies with the SDGs. Adjacency matrices will be used, as a result, the strongest links and interrelations between concepts and terms will be identified.

Seen the narrow timeline, the EKLIPSE team decided that instead of an expert working group, a consultant/research assistant shall be hired to carry out necessary analyses which will then be discussed at a workshop with experts.

The envisaged framing for the work of the research analyst will set the focus on the four main routes of the EU Energy Roadmap (energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear energy, and carbon capture and storage) and the creation of a list of terms out of this.

Hiring a research assistant and preparation of a workshop

In September 2018, Dr. Alexis Meletiou was hired as a research assistant to do conceptual work on the request (on the basis of the methodological protocol) and to prepare a workshop with experts. This included a literature review on key energy policies in the EU and key renewable energy technologies (RETs). On this basis, a conceptual model of the interlinkages between EU energy policy efforts and sectors, focusing on trade-offs and synergies with the SDGs was being developed by the EKLIPSE team, supported by the research assistant (external consultant). This model served as the basis for discussion with experts during a workshop in November 2018.

Workshop on renewable energy sources (RES) and their potential impacts on global biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In order to take advantage of this special approach, the EKLIPSE project organized an expert workshop. The goal was to analyze EU policies related to renewable energy sources (RES) and their potential impacts on global biodiversity and the targets set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs. In a two half-days event (19-20 November 2018) a group of specialists representing the academia, research organizations, policy makers the private sector and non-governmental organizations, gathered together and brainstormed on the topic.

Date and location: 19 – 20 November 2018 (two half-days), Brussels Office of the Helmholtz Association, Brussels.

Workshop participants: Miriam Grace, Alexis Meletiou, Marianne Darbi, Myriam Pham-Truffert, Henri Rueff, Rania Spyropoulou, Allan Watt, Lea Appulo, Tom Clarkson, Gregor Erbach, Corrado di Maria, Cary Hendrickson, Reinhard Klenke, Agata Klimkowska, Ioannis Kougias, Paul Lehmann, Gerd Lupp, Hannah Montag, Brendan Moore, Leila Niamir, Zoltan Rakonczay, Pip Roddis, Marieke Sassen, Thomas Tscheulin, Julia Wiehe and Meseret Wondirad

The findings outline the role of RES and identify challenges, based on the extensive experience of the participants. Best practices and integrated approaches are also highlighted to suggest ways to overcome and/or mitigate the impact of potential challenges.

Moreover, an integrated Model analyzed the 19 participants’ individual mental models using a Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping approach. The aim was to obtain direction and strength of interacting elements of the system and provide tangible quantitative information. A special focus was given on the impacts of each renewable energy technology showing that RES have complex effects on biodiversity and the SDGs, but also benefits the SDGs on balance, particularly climate-related SDGs.

Figure: Participants creating their individual models during the first day

Headline message from the workshop: Incorporating telecoupling effects into EU energy policy can support staying within the safe zone in Europe while avoiding transgressing the safe zone elsewhere.

The 2030 Agenda puts into perspective the safe zone between the ceiling formed by nature and the floor formed by social fairness. All countries are developing countries according to the 2030 Agenda because they all transgress either ceiling or floor1.


1 Raworth, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think like a 21st-Century Economist; O’Neill et al., “A Good Life for All within Planetary Boundaries.”