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Viewpoint -€“ Better management of hydropower in an era of climate change

Jamie Pittock
Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia;

ABSTRACT: Ten years ago the World Commission on Dams (WCD) report established new standards for the sustainable development of water infrastructure, but the hopes many of us had then for a new era of more thoughtful development have been attenuated by the resilience of the hydraulic bureaucracy and the emergence of new influences on the hydropower debate. Particularly important is the impact of climate change as a driver of government policies in favour of hydropower, water storage and inter-basin water transfers. As a former Director of Freshwater for WWF International and now as a researcher on the water-energy nexus, I spent much of the past decade seeking to influence the direction of water infrastructure development, and in this viewpoint I have been asked to reflect on the changes that have occurred, and the opportunities in an era of climate change to reduce the environmental and social impacts of hydropower development while maximising the benefits. Better outcomes are more likely with a renewed focus on limiting the perverse impacts of climate change policies, implementing standards for certification of more sustainable hydropower, building capacities within developing countries, and enhancing management of existing dams.