November, 2012

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.
  • An Energy Bill that’s good for the planet?

    Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, today published the Energy Bill, touted as a once-in-a-generation transformation of our energy infrastructure, promising that it will be ‘good for the planet’.

    This is an important reminder that even in these tough times, we still need to invest in new green energy infrastructure for the benefit of the planet as well as our economy. The stakes couldn’t be higher – Climate change threatens to drive extinctions across the world, and this year’s extreme weather at home and abroad is a stark reminder of the implications for people and wildlife of unbridled climate change.

    Sadly, this claim would be considerably more credible if the Government’s bill had introduced a clear commitment to near-zero carbon electricity by 2030. Without this, the UK’s nascent renewable energy industry continues to operate with considerable uncertainty that has been fuelled by high-profile rows within the coalition about the role of renewable energy versus fossil fuels.

    The second omission in the Bill is decisive action to prevent funds for renewables being swallowed up by coal power plants that convert over to burning wood.

    Earlier this month, the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace published a report that revealed that current plans would lead to the UK burning its way through the equivalent of six times the country’s total wood production each year by 2017. The report also used Government’s own data to show that this would be worse for the climate than burning coal.

    In spite of these gaping holes in the Bill, we’re encouraged by the growing support within all political parties to secure a ‘decarbonisation’ target and do something about the environmental disaster that unsustainable biomass plans will cause. That’s why the RSPB will be working hard over the next year to get the Bill amended so that it really is good for planet.

  • Waving the flag – from a careful distance

    O Canada! My home and native land! True patriot love, in all thy son’s command!

    Heather Ducharme

    That’s the first line the national anthem of my mother country. However, sitting in the RSPB climate change policy team two desks over from the guy who goes to the UNFCC meetings, I’m sometimes inclined to dissociate from my home and native land, despite the patriot love. Indeed, depending on the extent to which we have embarrassed ourselves internationally at the latest round of talks, I might even point out that, not being a son, I can’t actually be blamed...

     Source: Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

    But, in advance of the Doha meetings that begin today, a small glimmer of hope has appeared on the Canadian horizon: Peter Kent, our conservative Minister of the Environment (yes, the fellow who took Canada out of Kyoto around this time last year) has been quoted by the CBC as saying that climate change is a ‘real and present danger’. It seems that Superstorm Sandy – and perhaps the recent comments of re-elected, second-term Obama – has helped focus his mind. 

    The change in tone is surprising enough that my savvy Canadian friends have posted the CBC article on facebook under the comment “Hell has frozen over” (which, of course, is even less likely than usual).... Canadian left-wing bloggers also can’t quite believe their ears, pointing out that Kent’s remarks followed a parliamentary committee appearance where he had little to say on climate change action, and his MP colleagues even less.

    So what will happen this time around?  Insiders suggest there won’t be anything major coming out of Doha, which will instead focus on technical details, getting process in place for a new post-Kyoto agreement, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, something interesting on REDD+.  My selfish hope, though, is to just get through the next two weeks without any of my office pals sending me more pictures of polar bears perched precariously on tiny icy floes bearing the maple leaf...

  • Enjoy nature with a low carbon footprint!


    Jim Densham – Senior Land Use Policy Officer (Climate), Scotland.

    Way back in July, when the days were long and there were leaves on the trees, I wrote in this blog about Green Travel to Green Places, my RSPB sabbatical. My plan was to travel to RSPB reserves in Scotland to collect stories of climate impacts and only travel by low-carbon transport. I wanted to 1) bust the myth that you can only get to RSPB reserves if you have a car, and 2) show that you can reduce your carbon footprint when you visit nature.

    The first reserves I visited were all relatively local day trips from home in the Central Belt, but after that I got more adventurous and visited Coll and Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, and Dumfries and Galloway in the south west. Some of these reserves are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and you can read more about this in my sabbatical blog. My sabbatical is now finished so the other day I sat down to work out how far I travelled and how much carbon I used – and how much carbon I saved by travelling without a car.   


        Arrived at RSPB Loch Leven

    In total I travelled 953 miles to 10 reserves – 758 miles by train and 193 miles by bike. I also walked 2 miles to get to Baron’s Haugh reserve from the station. So how much CO2 did I save? If I travelled to those 10 reserves by car in the same schedule I would have travelled 843 miles (interestingly, a good few miles less) and emitted 173.6kg CO2. This was calculated for using a small car – for a large car, the total could have doubled to 349kg CO2. I used the transport direct calculator to work it all out.

    On my sabbatical journeys I the CO2 comes from train travel and the ferry of course, but I haven’t included that as I would have also needed the ferry with a car journey also. Nor have I allowed any extra food consumption for my cycling!  My 758 train miles emitted 68.5kg CO2. So my green travel saved 105.1kg CO2, or you could say that I emitted 60% less carbon than if I had travelled by car.

    From the outset I thought that my green travel would reduce my carbon footprint but I didn’t realise it would be by a rather staggering 60%. I am really pleased with the result and also pleased that getting on the bike got me fitter, and I am now a regular bicycle commuter. . So it is possible to enjoy nature and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. Good news for you and the birds.

    Do you have any good stories about cycling to see nature, or to reduce your CO2?