International leaders back bold new blueprint for sustainable hydropower

World Hydropower Congress calls for urgent action on climate emergency, harnessing unique capabilities of hydropower

A landmark declaration was issued today by the hydropower sector at the conclusion of the 2021 World Hydropower Congress, with the support of governments and former prime ministers, NGOs and international agencies.

The San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower urges greater green investment in responsible hydropower development and places enhanced ESG performance expectations on the sector.

The Declaration puts forward a new set of fundamental principles and recommendations to drive forward hydropower’s contribution to global climate goals.

Declaration welcomed by Alok Sharma

At today’s closing ceremony of the World Hydropower Congress, the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower will be handed over to COP26 President Alok Sharma to deliver to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.

Alok Sharma said: “This Declaration is a first vital step in increasing the global deployment of hydropower, with solid principles to guide the developments of projects, and sound recommendations for governments and policy-makers developed in consultation with businesses, financial institutions and civil society. And this exemplifies the collaborative approach we need to make the clean energy transition a reality.”

‘Going forward, the only acceptable hydropower is sustainable hydropower’

The 2021 World Hydropower Congress was organised by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and hosted in partnership with the Government of Costa Rica and Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), under the theme 'Renewables Working Together'.

Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy, Andrea Meza Murillo, said: “The San José Declaration seeks to promote sustainable hydropower development, and it is a call for best practices and to maximise positive impacts amongst governments, the private sector and stakeholders.”

Named in honour of Costa Rica’s capital city, the San José Declaration states that “Sustainable hydropower is a clean, green, modern and affordable solution to climate change”.

Recognising climate change as “the most pressing existential threat to humanity and the environment”, the Declaration calls for urgent action to spur new investments in sustainable hydropower development and unlock its potential for providing storage and flexibility in renewable energy systems.

At the heart of the Declaration, which was issued by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) as the Secretariat to the World Hydropower Congress, is a commitment to international good practice, emphasised by its central statement that “going forward, the only acceptable hydropower is sustainable hydropower”.

The World Hydropower Congress also saw the launch of the Hydropower Sustainability Standard, a new ESG certification scheme that is the first of its kind in the renewables sector. The Standard underpins the San José Declaration by providing a basis for defining international good practices in hydropower sustainability.

No-go commitment in World Heritage Sites

The San José Declaration includes an unprecedented statement by the global hydropower community that new projects should not be developed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It also takes new steps in committing to a duty of care in the development of hydropower projects that affect legally designated protected areas. This historic move was advanced by IHA, representing around 100 developers, operators and manufacturers that between them account for around a third of the world’s installed hydropower capacity.

Mandate to integrate renewables and hybrid projects

With huge amounts of wind and solar power coming onto electricity grids in coming decades, there will be increased need for hydropower to provide green storage and back-up when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. The Declaration sets out how hydropower is a proven technology to strengthen wind and solar, how solar PV and wind can be integrated in hybrid projects, and how it can help produce green hydrogen.

Review decommissioning non-beneficial dams

One of the key recommendations outlined in the Declaration proposes a “use it or lose it” stance, stressing that all dams should be beneficial. This is accompanied by a call for dams to be reviewed for decommissioning in cases where they no longer provide benefits to society or the environment, or have irreconcilable safety issues or adverse environmental impacts.

Broad and inclusive public consultation

The San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower was shaped by a wide-ranging public consultation that took place over several months, culminating in the gathering of global decision-makers at the World Hydropower Congress.

Hundreds of organisations and individuals participated in the consultation by attending online events facilitated by IHA and submitting feedback on draft versions of the Declaration. Input was received from representatives of governments, NGOs, international financial institutions, academic and research institutions, and civil society organisations.

Free to access and open to all

The World Hydropower Congress brought together over 6,000 participants representing a broad spectrum of voices among those with an interest in hydropower development worldwide. As the event reached its culmination, international leaders lent their voices to support the ambitions of the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower.

Strategic partners to the World Hydropower Congress were China Three Gorges Corporation, EDF, Sarawak Energy and Yalong River Hydropower Development Company, with Supporting Partners GE Renewable Energy and Voith Hydro.

Statements of support

Read and watch statements of support by visiting the website:

“The San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower is going to provide the blueprint for the new generation of hydropower, the construction and delivery of which is so critical if we are going to achieve the cut in emissions that we need.” – Malcolm Turnbull, 29th Prime Minister of Australia

“The Hydropower Sustainability Standard will be a really important innovation and, most importantly, it will allow the international community to invest in hydro projects.” – Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of the Institute for Global Change

“It is important that new hydropower projects are in line with sustainability standards. We welcome the work done on the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.” – Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA

“At EDF we do support the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower and we call on policy-makers to act swiftly on these recommendations, notably on promoting investment.” – Jean-Bernard Lévy, Chairman and CEO, EDF

“The Costa Rican Electricity Institute is committed to the World Hydropower Congress and the San José Declaration because it provides a path to continue promoting the transition towards renewable, modern, and affordable energy sources.” – Irene Cañas, President, Costa Rican Energy Institute (ICE)

“If we don’t act now, we as a society, will miss the window of opportunity. The San José Declaration shows the way forward in making net zero by 2050 possible with clean, green, sustainable and affordable hydropower. I particularly welcome the Hydropower Sustainability Standard as a key pillar of the San José Declaration. To me this is the foundation of our credibility as an industry as hydropower projects around the world will have to be independently rated and certified for their sustainability performance. We as GE will not participate in any project that has not been audited against these standards.” - Pascal Radue, President and CEO, GE Renewable Energy Hydro Solutions

“The San José Declaration is an important milestone, bringing forward such powerful commitments. And as a longstanding member of the International Hydropower Association, Voith Hydro will follow up on and support this positive initiative.” – Uwe Wehnhart, CEO, Voith Hydro

“The San José Declaration well formulates a set of important recommendations to policy-makers in order to accelerate the energy transition and we urge them to act now.” – Wolfgang Semper, CEO, Andritz Hydro

“We support the San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower and the Hydropower Sustainability Standard. They will play an important role in achieving global energy transition and net zero carbon targets.” – Wang Xiaojun, General Manager, Hubei Qingjiang

“We are in full support of the San José Declaration of Sustainable Hydropower and the sustainable hydropower Standard.” – He Shengming, Deputy General Manager, Yalong Hydro

A full selection of video statements at the conclusion of the World Hydropower Congress can be viewed at the website address below.

For more information, visit

Read about all the outcomes from the 2021 World Hydropower Congress:

Hydropower sector makes no-go commitment on World Heritage Sites with duty of care for Protected Areas

Global voices call for sustainable hydropower to address climate change as World Hydropower Congress

New hydropower certification and labelling scheme launched with global support

Report identifies 300 GW gap in hydropower needed to limit global warming

International government led coalition calls for urgent action on pumped storage hydropower

Green hydrogen and sustainable hydropower sectors collaborate to achieve net zero

Advances in hydropower tech can support renewable power system security

IHA releases guidance on hydropower development in protected Areas

Richard Taylor recognised with 2021 IHA Mosonyi Award for Excellence in Hydropower

India's Teesta-V hydropower station awarded 2021 IHA Blue Planet Prize

Watch today’s events

16:00 – Stakeholder Forum

17:00 – Closing Ceremony with COP26 President Alok Sharma and IHA President Roger Gill  

Register and attend at

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