Carbon emissions in renewable energy supply chains
From a life cycle perspective, wind energy emits 99 % less greenhouse gas emissions than coal power. Yet, there are still emissions tied to the manufacturing and transportation of components for green energy assets, meaning that scaling green energy will increase the total supply chain emissions from renewables. In order to maximise the climate benefits of green energy and ensure that the energy industry delivers the carbon reductions needed to align with the 1.5 °C pathway, everyone in the industry has to play their part to reduce their emissions across scope 1-3.
Human rights in global supply chains
The acceleration of the green energy build-out risks adversely impacting people throughout supply chains, specifically those in regions and industries where regulations are weak and the implementation of local legislation is defective. Migrant workers are a particularly vulnerable stakeholder group in relation to hiring practices and general working conditions – with risks including poor living conditions, insufficient wage levels, excessive working hours, poor health and safety practices, and recruitment practices that create forced labour situations.
Impacts on local communities
In addition to transforming our energy systems, green energy projects have the potential to revitalise local communities at dramatic scale. Over the next decade, renewable energy structures will become a part of many local communities. To ensure a just green transition, each project must be built in balance with the needs and expectations of these communities. Expectations vary, especially depending on geographies, but they often revolve around economic development opportunities, improved community health, and educational opportunities.
Local ecosystems and biodiversity
Constructing and operating green energy assets can impact the local environment wherever they are built. Such impacts can either be temporary, such as the noise from offshore piling, which can disturb marine mammals, or they can be permanent, such as foundations and cables that can affect the seabed and existing underwater habitats. If not managed correctly, there is a risk of negatively impacting biodiversity and local ecosystems wherever green energy assets are built.
Circular use of natural resources
Building green energy assets at the scale and speed required by the middle of the century risks increasing pressure on natural resources, including those that are already scarce. This will be driven by increased water usage and the mining and processing of minerals, metals, and raw materials used in the development of renewable assets. As a result, scarcity bottlenecks may occur, and the risk of impacting local natural environments during mining could only increase. If not handled with care, the green build-out can disturb habitats and deplete vital natural resources.