Earlier this week, thousands of people gathered in London from across the UK to speak to their politicians about climate change, urging them to take strong action to protect the things that we love. The ‘Speak Up for The Love Of’ lobby of parliament was the biggest ever lobby of Parliament, with some 330 MPs listening to their constituents explain why climate change matters to them and discussing actions government should take.
Towards the end of the day, business leaders came together to urge the new Government to provide investors with certainty about the UK’s transition to a low carbon future. Amber Rudd, the new energy and climate change secretary, spoke with conviction about tackling climate change.
Shortly after this event, however, DECC announced that public subsidies for onshore wind farms through the Renewables Obligation will be stopped a year earlier than expected.
We fear this will make it harder for the UK to tackle climate change and protect nature. Unless we decarbonise UK and global energy supplies, there is a real risk climate change will become a major driver of extinctions for birds and all species, with dire consequences for nature and society.
A nature-friendly carbon-free future requires a wide mix of renewable energy sources. Without sustained investment in well-located onshore wind it will become more challenging to realise the long term ambition we share with governments.
For the transition to low carbon energy to enjoy public support, costs have to be kept down and impacts on the environment have to be minimised.
Onshore wind power has a big contribution to make. It is one of the most cost-effective renewable energy technologies and has made a significant contribution to reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, providing clean, low carbon energy.
The RSPB will continue to fight renewable energy projects when they are sited in the wrong locations and threaten our most important places for wildlife. See for example our current fight to protect the Flow Country peatlands of Sutherland from SSE’s proposed Strathy South windfarm. However, when wind farms are sited sensibly and managed appropriately, they do not pose a conservation threat to birds or other wildlife.
We want to see a transition to a low carbon economy that takes place in harmony with nature. But this low carbon transition may not happen at all without clear and consistent policy support. As business leaders highlighted at the Westminster climate lobby, businesses and investors require long-term certainty to make decisions.
Climate change is the greatest long-term threat to wildlife around the world. That’s why we want to see the UK pursuing ambitious targets and effective support schemes for renewable energy deployment, including for onshore wind.
Guest blog by Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer (Climate), RSPB Scotland
Today, three RSPB Scotland colleagues and I will set off from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on a 520mile cycle ride to London. We have named ourselves Team Sky-lark (i.e. NOT team Sky). Riding to London feels like a pretty crazy undertaking right now as there are less than 2 weeks to go, I haven’t done enough training rides and I have a streaming cold. It certainly won’t be easy but hopefully with a group it will be fun, and rewarding when we arrive six and a half days later on the 17th June.
So quite how we get there and how painful it will be is unknown but at least the reasons why are clear:
Guest blog by my colleague Dr Richard Benwell, RSPB Parliamentary Programme Manager
There’s something satisfyingly medieval about a good Parliamentary lobby.
Obviously, we’d never want to see the caricature of pitchfork-waving anger that prompted protests of the past. Peaceful political lobbying is the marker of democratic success.
But there should still be a hint of fury mixed with a healthy dose of fun—as if to say “we’re really, really cross about climate change, and we’re gonna have a party outside Parliament till you do something about it”.
That’s the visceral, vocal mood I hope we’ll achieve together, if you can join us for the Speak Up For The Love Of climate lobby on Wednesday 17 June. No matter how slick we get at online activism, it can never replace the sight and sound of thousands of people raising their voices together to make the world better.
If you haven't signed up to come along yet, you can do so here.
There’s obviously still a lot to get cross about. Climate change is an existential threat for the most vulnerable communities in the world, like small island states, and it is an existential threat for many species and habitats. If IPCC projections come true, one in six species face extinction by 2100. Already, RSPB scientists are recording changes in food-availability and habitat that are affecting species like the capercaillie and crossbill here in the UK. Governments need to do much more to deal with the threat and sometimes our inability to cooperate boils the blood.
But there’s also a lot to celebrate. I’m actually amazed, impressed and heartened by how far the world has already come on climate. It’s extraordinary that almost 200 countries can agree to take action to avert a risk that often seems distant and abstract. Hopefully, we’re already at the point of peak emissions. Here in the UK, the Government has led the world with the Climate Change Act 2008, and the new Secretary of State, Amber Rudd MP, has already shown determination to continue to make progress.
That’s happened because of days like 17 June, when people gather to show the world we care. The theme of the lobby is about demonstrating our love for the things that will be affected by climate change—big things like nature and future generations, as well as more personal things like the view from a window, or a river teeming with life.
So, how do we get the most out of Speak Up For The Love Of?
First of all, please come, and please bring your friends. Bring banners and briefings and cakes to keep you going. The more the merrier and the more we can achieve.
The second step is to know what you want. The headline is let’s beat climate change, so let’s say that loud and clear. But if you’re lucky enough to speak to your MP in person, you’ll have a golden opportunity to express to them why climate change matters and what you want them to do about it. Why not practise what you would say, following the simple recipe of:
“(1) What’s the problem? (2) Why does it matter? (3) What should we do about it?”
I hope that for many of us, our love of nature will be the perfect way to express what’s at stake and what must be done, with the heart and conviction that will inspire MPs to act. For too long, nature conservation has been seen as peripheral or even at odds with the fight against climate change. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand. If I get to see my MP, I’ll say that:
(1) Climate change is still threatening people and nature, like the amazing Scottish Flow Country—one of my favourite places in the world.
(2) Millions of people, millions of pounds, and many wonders of our natural world are at stake.
(3) The UK can help forge a global deal in Paris. By taking UK action we can show leadership and improve people’s lives. Nature is part of the answer: restoring natural ecosystems like the peatland of the Flow Country can lock away carbon and build up our natural resilience to climate risks like flooding and sea-level rise. So, please give us a 25 year plan for nature, with annual reporting to Parliament, to restore our natural world and help beat climate change.
Together with our partners in The Climate Coalition, RSPB will send out a briefing to anyone who signs up. It will give you lots more ideas, like phasing out coal, or cleaning up transport. But the key really will be combining the call to action with the human story of why it all matters to you. That’s what will move our politicians to do everything they can for our environment.
I had a wonderful day at last year’s Rally for Nature and met lots of brilliant people. That day helped win us commitments for nature across the political spectrum in the General Election manifestos. But Speak Up For The Love Of can be the UK’s biggest, best and most effective climate lobby ever. It can help to avert climate change and save nature. Please do come and join us and let’s make it a House (of Commons) party to remember.