September, 2011

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Climate change

News and views from the RSPB on climate change and what you can do about it.
  • Going solar at Lakenheath Fen

    If you haven’t visited Lakenheath you really should. 15 years ago it was a carrot field. Now it’s a great expanse of reedbeds, marshes and waterways, with towering poplars along the edge that play host to the UK’s last breeding population of golden orioles.

    We created Lakenheath fen partly in response to the threat of climate change. As sea levels rise, bitterns are loosing their remaining habitats along the Suffolk coast in places like Minsmere. We can’t guarantee these places will be suitable for bittern in the future, so Lakenheath is part of our effort to make sure that bitterns will have somewhere to breed in the long-term.

    I visited Lakenheath yesterday – but not to seek out the bittern! I was there along with Solarcentury to have a look at the potential for a big solar power system on the reserve. In fact, we’re looking at the potential across many of the RSPB’s sites, and this was just one visit of many. We’re particularly looking at the potential for large canopies in our car parks. Visitors would still be able to park underneath them, and it makes a lot of sense ecologically as the car park is usually the one part of our reserves that don’t have much wildlife interest.

    The new site manager, Dave, along with Steve and Suzanne welcomed us to the site and showed us around.

    We first checked out the roof



    As you can see, it’s a ‘brown’ roof – great for insects – and it already has some solar hot water tubes, which  Paul from solar century is explaining in the pic above. Some of the roof might be suitable for solar PV though.

    Then we went and had a look at the car park. Its pretty big and we felt that it could fit in a big system without getting in anyone’s way. Steve is holding a ladder measured to 3.8m by the way – equivalent to the tallest point of the canopy.


    The frustrating thing is that the size of any installation in the car park will be limited to 50kw max as Government introduced severe cuts to funding for larger systems. 

    Anyway, we finished the day with a number of different ideas that could work. We don’t know which – if any – will go ahead yet as it depends on lots of issues – funding in particular. Watch this space for further news...

  • Climate check – It’s report time for the Coalition

    Climate check – It’s report time for the Coalition

    The RSPB has been working on a Green Alliance-led project with fellow NGOs WWF, Christian Aid and Greenpeace to carry out a rigorous assessment of the Coalition Government’s performance on climate change, 16 months on from when it all started, back in the rose garden.

    The Coalition Agreement contains some pretty impressive commitments on climate change. They said they would create a green investment bank to channel investment into things like renewable energy, and establish an emissions performance standard to prevent the growth of dirty coal. They promised to be leaders in delivering a global deal to replace the soon to expire Kyoto Protocol.

    But have they lived up to their promises?

    We found that the government has made either moderate or no progress on 22 of its 29 low-carbon commitments. We’ve had some really positive decisions – most importantly the Coalition stood by and legislated for the future carbon budgets recommended to them by the independent Climate Committee, in spite of opposition from the Treasury and BIS (the Department for Business). They were also quick to move on cancelling a third runway at Heathrow.

    These are important successes for the Government, but they have been undermined to a certain extent by a lack of commitment from the top echelon in the Coalition, and by a growing feeling that Government’s real commitment is to growth – at any cost. Witness the current planning reform debacle for further evidence of this.

    So, for now, the Coalition have scraped by with a pass, but climate will need to move up the priority list significantly if they’re going to improve on this - let alone pass - next time round.

    Here’s some more details about the report:

    Climate Check is published by think tank Green Alliance in conjunction with WWF, Christian Aid, Greenpeace and RSPB. It is the product of five months’ research and extensive discussions with over 40 officials and ministers across Whitehall.

    The 48-page report examines progress across 11 departments and concludes:

    • So far, the government has made some good, high-profile decisions on important policies such as the 4th Carbon Budget, but its overall record is weakened by delayed or poorly-designed policies on many other coalition commitments.
    • Seven commitments have been delivered successfully or achieving good progress – for instance, there has been a nearly 14 per cent reduction in emissions across central government.
    • On a further 6 policies, the Coalition is failing – for instance, the Treasury has made no progress towards creating green financial products.
    • On the remaining 16 policies there is only moderate progress, due to delay (10), poor policy design (9), or both. The Green Deal, for example, is at risk of failing because of a lack of urgency and support across government departments.
    • There are clear indications that the Treasury and to a lesser extent BIS have curbed, or attempted to curb, the government’s ambition on the low carbon agenda.
    • However, contrary to what observers might expect, there is little evidence of division along party lines. Both Conservative and Liberal Democrat champions of low carbon policies have been held back by others within their own party.
  • Put your money where your mouth is

    Guest blogger: Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer, RSPB Scotland

    This week Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) has launched a letter writing campaign to urge the Scottish Government to put its money where its mouth is on climate change. Since the Scottish Parliament passed Scotland’s Climate Change Act in 2009 there has been a lot of noise about its world leading greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 42% by 2020. The Scottish Government is itself rightly proud of these targets and is committed to achieving them, but although important, targets are meaningless unless we actually achieve them. 

    So is Scotland meeting the targets? Official figures released this week show that up to 2009 emissions had been falling. However, in its 3rd Progress Report, the independent Committee on Climate Change reported that emissions "are likely to have increased across the devolved administrations in 2010" and that “a step change in the pace of emission reductions is order to meet carbon budgets”.

    In response to this need for increased effort we’re asking you to join the SCCS campaign and write letters to your MSPs. We want the MSPs to urge the Government to make sure that the forthcoming budget fully funds all of the measures in the Government’s own emissions reduction action plan for Scotland. This plan includes funding the restoration of peatland, such as in the Flows, which I blogged about last time.

    If you live in Scotland you can help make this happen by stepping up and sending a short personal email to your MSPs today.  Click here to do your bit.