Challenges addressed

The project highlights key challenges at the nexus of renewable energy (RE) development, biodiversity protection, and climate change mitigation. It aims primarily at identifying the potential conflict between the pressure to rapidly expand RE, specifically in sensitive Alpine regions where ecosystems are still the most intact, and the essential goal of increasing biodiversity protection, which is currently insufficient while key to mitigating climate change. As such, striking a balance between these two critical environmental imperatives poses a significant challenge.

The ways to ensure energy security during the transition to RE is particularly key, considering the risk of maintaining the dependency on imported fossil fuels in the coming years - and therefore a business-as-usual model in terms of carbon emissions - if the implementation of large-scale renewable energy infrastructure is too slow. The project also addresses the difficulty of identifying suitable locations for renewable energy installations while ensuring minimal impact on biodiversity, to guarantee that the net pressure on ecosystems does not increase, and that rare intact habitats remain protected and in good ecological condition. These challenges require careful national prioritisation of landscape usage that also takes into account spatial prioritisation of biodiversity conservation, thus coordinating efforts between cantons, which will also constitute an important dimension of the project.

The project will bring together the Swiss climate, biodiversity, and RE scientific communities. Interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration is carefully considered by the project team when inviting participants, emphasising the importance of bridging gaps between various scientific domains and institutions. Lastly, the project will highlight challenges in influencing public policy and engaging diverse stakeholders, in particular through a final scientists-stakeholders workshop.

This project falls within the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specific targets (T) mentioned here:

  • SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing (T3.9)
  • SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy (T7.2)
  • SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production (T12.2)
  • SDG 15: Life on land (T15.1, 15.4, 15.5, 15.9, 15.a)
  • SDG 17: Partnership for the goals (T17.14)

Objectives

The project's goal is to identify potential conflicts and facilitate dialogue between different fields of research and policy to arrive at a strategy that simultaneously achieves renewable energy development, biodiversity protection, and climate change mitigation.

What are the expected outputs of this project?

The project team, consisting of Antoine GuisanSascha NickChristophe Ballif, Stefanie Prezioso, Alejandra Morán-Ordóñez, Caroline Martin and Eléa Pierre, is working on the following outputs:

  • To write a White Paper on Alpine Renewable Energy. It will be a detailed document outlining the findings, recommendations, and guidelines related to renewable energy developments in the Swiss Alpine region, considering biodiversity preservation and climate mitigation.
  • To set up a Research Agenda addressing the resolution of energy-biodiversity conflicts and promoting integrated planning for energy developments.
  • To propose a prototype of a model of dialogue betweenscientific communities. It will be developed ideally in partnership with CLIMACT, UNIL’s CCD and the SCNAT, as an interactive platform or framework for facilitating productive dialogue between the energy, climate, and biodiversity scientific communities in Switzerland.

Milestones

  • June 2023

    Project start - Scoping workshop in Lausanne

  • October 2023 to January 2024

    Two scientific stakeholder workshops in Neuchâtel and Zurich, building on each other and on literature

  • January to March 2024

    Preparation of White Paper and other deliverables

  • March to April 2024

    Outreach events in Bern

Funding

This project is financed by CLIMACT.

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Principal investigators

Prof.
Prof. Antoine Guisan

ull Professor in Spatial Ecology
UNIL FBM | FGSE

Dr.
Dr. Sascha Nick

LEURE ENAC EPFL

Prof.
Prof. Christophe Ballif

EPFL STI

Collaborators

Prof.
Prof. Raphaël Arlettaz

Université de Berne Faculté des Sciences

Sustainable Development Goals

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