Press Release | No Need to Cut the Planet's Arteries to Save Her Lungs

Back to Resources
First published on
This resource has been tagged as a Press Release

For immediate release:

International Rivers welcomes today’s US-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change. We salute the increased focus on phasing out fossil fuels and strengthening climate resilience, and the inclusion of a South-South climate cooperation fund.

Currently China’s clean power plan and its export of energy technologies are overly reliant on unsustainable large hydropower projects. Peter Bosshard, Interim Executive Director of International Rivers, says, “Including large hydropower in the implementation of the US-Chinese statement would be misguided and counter-productive. Trying to dam our way out of climate change would mean cutting the planet’s arteries in order to save her lungs.”

The US and China should not promote large hydropower projects under their new agreement for the following reasons:

Tropical reservoirs emit large amounts of methane, a highly aggressive greenhouse gas. A peer-reviewed article has estimated reservoir emissions to account for 4% of all human-made climate change – about the same contribution as the aviation sector.

Bulky large hydropower dams are ill-matched to a future in which the time and location of precipitation becomes ever less predictable. Large dams weaken climate resilience, particularly of countries that are already highly hydro-dependent.

Climate finance for long-established technologies such as hydropower crowds out support for the cutting-edge solutions of the future.

Given the rapidly growing potential of smart grids and affordable battery storage, hydropower will no longer be needed to balance variable solar and wind power by the time new dams come online.

Dams and pollution have decimated rivers and lakes: Freshwater ecosystems have lost more species than any other major ecosystem. Given the added pressure of climate change on freshwater species, more large dams would lead to the collapse of many critically important ecosystems.

You will find more information about this topic at