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Climate mitigation

The challenge

There is a clear and pressing need to eliminate uncertainty in quantifying the greenhouse gas footprint of reservoirs.

The greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of hydropower - and the emissions caused from the creation of reservoirs - has long been questioned in both scientific and policy spheres. 

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Up until now, there has been no consensus on how to quantify this footprint. The biochemical processes associated with the flooding of terrestrial land are very complex, and existing measurement techniques are both cumbersome and expensive.

This uncertainty has proved a significant obstacle in financing hydropower projects. There is an increasing need for policy and decision makers to better understand the GHG emissions of reservoirs.


Our strategy and action

IHA has led the way in developing a tool to reliably estimate the carbon emissions of hydropower.

Since 2006 we have partnered with UNESCO, the World Bank and leading research institutions, along with supporting members including CTG, EDF, Hydro Quebec, Landsvirkjun, Sarawak Energy, Statkraft.

We have taken a leadership role in advancing a common understanding of how GHG emissions arise from reservoirs, working closely with leading scientists. 

This led, in 2017, to the launch of the G-res tool for estimating net emissions from reservoirs from both before and after development. 

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Throughout 2018, we will continue to offer assisted assessments using the G-res tool and dedicated training for users. We will also be updating and refining the tool as new empirical data and scientific insights come to light.

Our goal is for the G-res tool to be the internationally recognised methodology to reliably estimate GHG emissions, and allocate emissions to other services, including hydropower generation.


Recent activities

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In May 2017, the G-res tool was officially launched during the 2017 World Hydropower Congress in Addis Ababa. During the launch, preliminary G-res tool results for nearly 500 hydropower reservoirs were presented, emphasising the importance of multi-purpose reservoirs for development.

In November 2017, the conceptual framework underlying the G-res tool methodology was published in the peer-reviewed journal Ecosystems.

In November 2017, the G-res tool was presented at the Canadian Hydropower Forum in Canada.

In November 2017, the G-res tool hydropower results were presented at the Enhancing Sustainability in Hydropower Development conference in Colombia.


Latest associated content

  • GHG webinar

    Webinar introducing the G-res tool: watch the recording

    On Wednesday 2 December we hosted a webinar that provided an overview of the IHA/UNESCO project on the GHG status of freshwater reservoirs, an introduction to the G-res tool, as well as the opportunity for partcipants to pose questions to the tool

    Blog post
    3 December 2015
  • Delegates at the World Hydropower Congress

    Answering your questions about the IHA annual issues survey

    For the first time, we are taking the pulse of the hydropower sector at large in a new annual survey. You are invited to take part.

    Blog post
    30 November 2015
  • Image of the Sustainable Development Goals icons highlighting goal 7 - "affordable and clean energy"

    Sustainable Development Goals: how does hydropower fit in?

    With the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including a dedicated goal to provide universal access to modern energy services, hydropower has an important role to play in the post-2015 development agenda.

    Blog post
    1 October 2015
  • Photograph of Chinese scientists taking measurements in a reservoir

    Greenhouse gas and reservoirs research pushes forward in China

    Although recent studies have shown that the gross greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of Chinese reservoirs were not as high as previously estimated, there are nonetheless increased efforts to measure the GHG exchanges of reservoirs

    Blog post
    17 September 2015
  • 2015 Hydropower Status Report

    2015 Hydropwer Status Report available for download

    The 2015 Hydropower Status Report is now available for download, providing comprehensive insights into new global developments in the sector, statistics on new installed capacity, detailed regional analysis, and more.

    News post
    1 September 2015


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