UnDam the United Nations!

United Nations and Member Countries

dams emit methane emissions and are not clean energy

Climate Agreements Should Not Support Dams

The U.N. registered 1,965 hydroelectric projects under its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Registered CDM projects can sell carbon credits, also known as Certified Emission Reduction Credits or CERs. Countries and companies purchase these credits to satisfy or “offset” a portion of their emission reduction targets without directly reducing their own emissions.  

Hydropower projects account for more than 25% of all CDM carbon credits. Unfortunately, the CDM has not accurately accounted for methane emissions from dams and reservoirs. This is one of many reasons the CDM has been widely criticized for producing carbon credits that do not represent actual emission reductions.  

Despite these problems with emission accounting, the U.N. is approving CDM carbon credits for use toward emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement (known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs). Hydropower projects account for 33% of the CDM carbon credits that are approved under the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement also has a new carbon trading system that can approve new dam projects to sell carbon credits without properly accounting for methane emissions.  

Please tell the U.N. to eliminate dams and other
harmful offset projects from the Paris Agreement.

Why Aren't Dams A Climate Solution?

  1. Methane: Dams and reservoirs emit massive amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent in the near term than carbon dioxide.  

  2. Counterfeit Carbon Credits: Carbon offset credits from dams do not account for methane emissions. U.N. offset verifiers take dam builders at their word that dams are "additional," meaning they result in emission reductions that would not have occurred without the sale of carbon credits.

  3. Indigenous Rights, Human Rights: Dams have displaced millions of Indigenous people and other river-dependent communities. Dams eliminate traditional, healthy, local food sources. Dams destroy ancient, sustainable, low-carbon, place-based cultures.

  4. Clean Alternatives: Solar and wind energy are cleaner, cheaper, and faster to build, offering far greater positive impact for limited climate funding.

  5. Water Loss: Dam reservoirs have tremendous water losses to evaporation and seepage, increasing impacts of droughts.

  6. Water Quality: Dam reservoirs can elevate water temperatures, reduce oxygen, and breed toxic algae which contain dangerous neurotoxins.

  7. Extinction & Ecosystems: Dams destroy habitat, block fish passage, damage the food web, and cause extinction of native species.

  8. Climate Resilience: Dams aren’t climate resilient and they reduce the ability of communities and ecosystems to adapt to climate change.

Please sign the petition to eliminate harmful offsets from climate agreements today.  

By signing this petition, you agree you may receive occasional email updates from its sponsors. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Logos of UnDam UN partners: Water Climate Trust, Rios to Rivers, Waterkeeper Alliance, International Rivers

Sponsored by

To: United Nations and Member Countries
From: [Your Name]

Please act now to stop supporting dams as a climate solution and account for their methane emissions.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has registered 1,965 hydroelectric projects without accurately accounting for their methane emissions, or their impacts to ecosystems and communities. These hydroelectric projects now account for 33% of all CDM emission reduction credits classified as “Article 6 Ready” under the Paris Agreement.

Without corrective action on your part, Article 6 offset schemes will support construction of harmful new dams and validate old emission reduction credits from dam projects that are emitting methane. As you implement climate mitigation goals of the Paris Agreement, please:

1. Exclude hydroelectric dams from all offset schemes including those in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and “net zero” pledges.

2. Require that member countries fully account for methane emissions from dams and reservoirs when calculating Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

3. Exclude from NDCs all hydroelectric dams that violate the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Why Aren’t Dams a Climate Solution?

Methane Emissions:
Dams and their reservoirs emit methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent in the near term than carbon dioxide. As the latest IPCC report confirms, U.N. member countries cannot know if they achieve emission reduction targets until they account for methane emissions.

Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
Dams displace Indigenous communities, submerge ancestral territory, and eliminate healthy traditional food sources. Dams destroy ancient, sustainable, low-carbon, place-based cultures. Dam companies routinely do not seek free, prior and informed consent before flooding Indigenous communities. The dam building Industry has a history of murder, torture, and intimidation of Indigenous people.

Clean & Cost-effective Alternatives:
Solar and wind energy are cleaner, less expensive, and faster to build. The relative cost-effectiveness of solar and wind would be even more pronounced if the U.N. accounted for the externalized social, environmental, and intergenerational cost of dams.

Water Loss:
Dam reservoirs lose water to evaporation and underground seepage exacerbating water shortages and droughts. Some dams lose more water to evaporation than they deliver for water users.

Pollution and Water Quality:
Dam reservoirs exponentially increase the concentration of toxic algae which can poison humans and kill animals and fish. Dams elevate water temperature and reduce dissolved oxygen levels killing native fish.

Extinction & Ecosystems:
Dams cause species extinction and harm ecosystems by blocking access to spawning habitat upstream from dams, destroying downstream habitat, and supporting non-native species.

Carbon Sinks:
Dams limit the ability of rivers to carry carbon to the sea where it is absorbed and feeds plankton.

Unreliable Energy-Source:
Climate change has led to more frequent and severe draughts. Many countries that rely heavily on hydropower have suffered energy crises as their dams didn’t function efficiently due to low river flows.

Counterfeit Carbon Credits:
Under the Clean Development Mechanism, dam builders did not account for methane emissions or verify claims of "additionality." This resulted in “Certified Emission Reductions” (CERs) that do not represent actual emission reductions. Nonetheless, fossil fuel companies and other polluters can purchase these CERs to avoid making emission reductions.

Climate Adaptation:
Climate adaptation goals of the Paris Agreement would be better served by protecting free flowing rivers and the people who depend on them.

Free flowing rivers protect biodiversity, ecological resilience, and emotional resilience. Free flowing rivers provide food and sustainable economic livelihoods. Free flowing rivers sustain ancient place-based cultures which, unlike modern dominant cultures, provide for the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Please exclude hydroelectric dams from all carbon offset schemes, require U.N. member countries fully account for methane emissions from dams and reservoirs, and exclude from NDCs all new hydroelectric dams and existing dams that violate the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

[Your Name]