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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
Experts agree that to limit the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we need to drastically change the way we produce energy around the world. However, a counter-narrative has emerged, contending that the impacts of transitioning to a system dominated by renewable energy will harm communities and nature. But we must not lose sight of the big picture: overall, renewables are much better for people and nature and we have tools to not just avoid or minimize any negative impacts but to plan and build in ways that start to restore nature.
Transformation of the energy sector requires global systemic change that combines all necessary changes at a local, regional, and national level. A rapid energy transformation is not without impacts on natural resources and local communities but it’s far less harmful than continuing down our current path of powering our world primarily with fossil fuels. We need to shift to an energy system that considers the costs and benefits to nature in all phases of planning, design, development, and decision-making.
In a first-of-its-kind analysis, WWF and Boston Consulting Group compare a rapid transition to renewable energy to our current approach dominated by fossil fuels across key areas including mining, air quality, water quality, ecosystems, biodiversity, human well-being, and area footprint. The results show that a rapid transition to renewable energy is dramatically better for nature, human health and safety, and jobs.
Take a look at some of the most compelling findings.
Across all eight socioeconomic metrics, the rapid transition scenario achieves materially greater benefits for people—including improved food security, human health, and livelihoods—compared to business-as-usual.
Risks to biodiversity, natural habitats, and ecosystems are significantly lower in a rapid transition to renewables compared to a business-as-usual future.
The mining footprint for critical minerals needed for a rapid transition to renewable energy future will be far smaller than the land spared from decommissioned coal mining.
Considering both the total footprint of energy development and that of climate change-related land loss and degradation, the projected total land (and ocean) area impacted is lower in a rapid transition scenario compared with a business-as-usual fossil fuel energy system.
The quality of water will significantly improve if we transition rapidly to renewable energy, resulting in massive human health benefits.
Air and quality will significantly improve if we transition rapidly to renewable energy, resulting in massive human health benefits. Emissions of air pollutants are between 60%-90% lower with a rapid transition to renewable energy by 2050 compared with a business-as-usual fossil fuel energy system.
Boston Consulting Group partnered with WWF and contributed to the analysis of this report.