There can be no prosperous future for humankind without a balanced relationship with the natural world. This is no idealistic statement: indeed, it has become increasingly meaningful in recent years thanks to the relatively new academic discipline of environmental economics. Humanity derives numerous benefits from the natural environment in the form of goods and services (generally referred to as “ecosystemic services”) such as food, wood, drinking water and energy, as well as protection from flooding and soil erosion. Natural ecosystems are, moreover, the source of life-saving medicines and they enable us to dispose of our waste, carbon dioxide included. The environment has also shaped human development and this bond has important social, cultural and aesthetic connotations. Maintaining and conserving biodiversity, therefore, is essential for ensuring our very existence.
Every year on May 22
With this in mind, the United Nations, through its Sustainable Development Goals (in particular SDG 14, Life Below Water, and SDG 15, Life on Land) outlined in the 2030 Agenda, aims to protect and restore marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Within this framework numerous initiatives have been proposed, including the celebration each year on May 22 of the International Day for Biological Diversity.
The theme chosen for the 2022 edition is “Building a shared future for all life on Earth,” which is the mission of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) signed by the global assembly after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and introduced on December 29 1993. The Convention calls on all the organizations that share this mission to take action through concrete activities and initiatives.
For some time at Enel we have included the defense of biodiversity as a central goal for our activities. All over the world we have launched 183 projects to protect natural habitats and animal and plant species. Various activities have been implemented in line with a clear environmental strategy and company policy to foster development that is eco-sustainable and respects the environment, natural resources and biodiversity. On the basis of this approach, we have decided to adopt the principle of “No Net Loss” concerning biodiversity for all the new infrastructure built from 2030 onwards, adopting selected projects in areas of great importance in this respect, starting in 2025. The “No Net Loss” concept, which has also been embraced by the European Commission, is based on the idea that all potential and inevitable residual impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems generated by human activity must include dedicated and targeted actions to compensate the net loss associated with that impact.
One of the many areas where this principle can be applied is the urban setting, where protecting the natural environment represents a challenge that has never been so complex. Enel X is committed to protecting biodiversity in these most populated areas, where most of its activities are concentrated.
For example, on May 20 2021 Enel X announced the installation of three beehives at its premises in Rome, to be managed by an urban beekeeping association. One year later, on May 16, the project came to fruition with the inauguration of the Bee Garden, which protects 180 thousand bees, hosted in three beehives that are now operational. On May 10, on the other hand, 100 primary school students in L’Aquila took part in a special day that Enel, in partnership with the startup Beeing, organized with the CFA Training Center to highlight the importance of bees and learn more about their world.
Protecting the bees
The choice of May 20 was no coincidence seeing as it is World Bee Day and occurs just two days prior to the day chosen by the UN for biodiversity.
Protecting bees is also a goal of Enel Green Power, which has launched various initiatives, including in the United States and Spain, to introduce beehives at its renewable energy plants.
From the city to the forest
Getting back to initiatives to protect biodiversity, Enel is committed to it in all the countries where it works. In Argentina, for example, it is involved in a reforestation program outside Buenos Aires. Latin America and Central America are areas where our Group is particularly active with initiatives geared towards environmental sustainability.
Take, for example, the large Enel Biodiversa project that we launched in Colombia to fight climate change and protect biodiversity. This consists of a number of activities including supporting the Sembrar nos une (Sowing brings us together) campaign launched by the Colombian government in 2020 to plant 180 million trees in the space of two years. This huge collective effort involves public institutions and the private sector. Enel alone has planted more than 300 thousand saplings, including 15,500 in the protected area of Bosque Renace, a forest that is part of the vast Northern Andes ecosystem, managed directly by Enel Colombia.
Promoting a shared culture
20% of the world’s biodiversity is concentrated in Colombia and all the countries in Central America where we are present (Mexico, Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica). With the launch of Enel Biodiversa, we have decided to contribute to protecting this heritage, adopting particularly rigorous management criteria in all of the facilities we operate, such as power plants, distribution lines and substations. These actions do not only concern environmental protection, but also raising awareness to promote a sense of belonging and the conservation of biodiversity among local communities.
From the environment to local micro-enterprise
Further examples of this approach to protecting biodiversity can be seen in the activities we have launched in Fortuna in Panama where Enel Green Power manages a 300 MW hydroelectric plant, the largest in the country. Fortuna, which is immersed in a rainforest of inestimable value, is also the site of a unique experiment that began in 2021. Here, as part of an agreement with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, studies are being conducted on the local flora and fauna to monitor the impact of climate change. Furthermore, every year donations are made to local families, who receive the necessary materials and tools for setting up a vegetable garden. This not only helps them become self-supporting, but also enables them to sell surplus produce in the local markets. The idea is to foster the growth of micro-enterprise that is closely linked to the protection of the natural environment.
The case of Fortuna is also a cultural initiative, which fits in with another approach being pursued by our Group to protect biodiversity – the concept of generating awareness. A further example of this commitment can be seen in the projects launched in Chile by the Fundación Huinay, a private not-for-profit organization that was founded in 2001 by the Catholic University of Valparaíso and Enel Generación. In 2018 the Foundation began research into climate change and the ecosystems of Patagonia, centered on 34 thousand hectares of temperate rainforest in the Los Lagos region. Two programs in particular are worthy of note: one is the summer school focused on science, technology and promoting conservation, and the other is the Project for the Observation of Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems in Patagonia (POETA). The aim is to create an open-source data platform that’s accessible to anyone and useful to the study and definition of new actions to protect the environment, the climate and ecosystems.