Last year, people came together all over the country to lobby more than 220 MPs as part of the first Stop Climate Chaos Coalition’s Big Climate Connection. Thank you very much if you were one of the 225 who signed up from the RSPB!
Now we’re all meeting our MPs again to remind them that they must do more to stop climate chaos.
This comes at a time when the Coalition Government has some key decisions to make on climate change that could make or break their promise to be ‘the greenest government ever’.
David Cameron and his colleagues will soon be making a decision about the UK’s climate commitments for the 2020s. The Climate Change Committee have advised Government on the ‘fourth carbon budget’, and said that the UK should aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030. This is what has to happen if the UK is to do its fair share in helping keep global climate change within ‘safe’ levels. We will be urging MPs to make sure Government accepts this advice and legislates accordingly.
A critically important Energy Bill is also going through Parliament. The Bill will introduce the ‘Green Deal’, which will give homeowners access to funds for energy-efficiency makeovers that will then be repaid with the savings they make through wasting less energy. This is really important for the UK – our leaky homes mean that 42% of our emissions come from buildings. We will be telling MPs that they need to make the Green Deal much more ambitious and attractive to homeowners if it’s going to work.
You can join in with the Big Climate Connection by following this link. And we’ll post reports of some of the meetings on this blog.
We launched a new report on biofuels today. It was based on some work we commissioned to support our campaign to protect the Dakatcha woodlands in Kenya.
Dakatcha is a beautiful area of dry tropical woodland with patches of scrub and farmland speckled throughout. It’s home to 20,000 people, mostly subsistence farmers, and some very special wildlife - including a bird called the Clarkes Weaver that is only found in one other place in the world.
Our partner organisation in Kenya, Nature Kenya, has been working to protect the area for many years, and has a long history of working with local people there to support them in earning an income that doesn't depend on destroying the forest. But over the past year the RSPB, along with Action Aid, has joined Nature Kenya to fight a proposal to destroy 50,000ha of woodlands and scrub to plant jatropha. The developer is owned by an Italian company that intends to use the jatropha to make biofuels for the European market.
Our analysis aimed to find out what the consequences of this development would be for climate change. The consultants we used considered the emissions from everything from clearing the forest to planting and growing the crop, as well as the benefits of replacing normal fossil fuels with the biofuel that would be produced.
The result? These biofuels will have a carbon footprint 6 times bigger than fossil fuels!
Biofuels are subsidised generously in Europe because they are supposedly green fuels. But this is causing catastrophes for wildlife and people like the one that will take place in Dakatcha unless we can stop it. That’s why the RSPB is calling for these subsidies to end, and for Governments in the UK and Europe to focus their efforts to cut emissions from transport by increasing efficiency and supporting electric cars instead.
Scottish Power Renewables announced today that they’ve been given the go ahead to build 10 underwater tidal turbines in the Sound of Islay in Scotland. This is great news. Tidal stream technologies like this could play a really important role in generating lots of low carbon electricity in the future.
The story was also reported on the Today programme, where someone made a comparison to the UK Government deciding not to go ahead with a tidal project in the Severn. Part of the reason behind this decision was the potentially vast environmental impact of building a barrage in the estuary. But tidal stream turbines like the ones that will be built in the Sound of Islay are completely different - and they pose considerably lower risks to birds and wildlife.
The RSPB will, however, keep a close eye on this and other similar projects, and will work closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish Power Renewables, to ensure that we learn as much as possible about potential impacts - and to make sure any impacts are minimised in the future.
This is what Aedan Smith, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Planning, said about the project:
“This is a very welcome decision by the Scottish government. Wave and tidal power will play a critical part in our energy supply in the future, helping us reduce our carbon emissions yet still contribute towards our energy requirements. RSPB Scotland will continue working with developers and the Scottish government to ensure devices avoid important places for birds and wildlife, provided this is adhered to, tidal power could provide a truly sustainable renewable energy source.
“RSPB Scotland did not object to the application as, whilst the area is used by diving seabirds, the numbers present are not high and it is unlikely that a significant impact would result although this was subject to a comprehensive programme of monitoring and research being established. It will be important to monitor the effects of these devices on marine wildlife so that wider deployment can happen without causing harm. We look forward to working with the developers and Scottish government to make sure this happens”.
The tidal stream energy array will be built in the Sound of Islay. The £40 million pound development will harness the power of the Sound of Islay and has the potential to generate 10 megawatts (MW) enough power for over 5,000 homes.