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The Energy Futures project

Sunset at Royd Moor Wind Farm

Renewable energy requires space,
this can bring it into conflict with wildlife

Image: Charles Cook (Creative Commons)

Climate change is one of the greatest long-term threats to wildlife. We must act now to avoid the worst impacts on wildlife and people. 

In 2008, the UK Government set a target to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (relative to 1990 levels) by 2050. 

Achieving this will involve significant expansion of low-carbon, renewable energy technologies. Some of these will require large areas of land or sea for their deployment and may have negative impacts on wildlife, 

It is important to understand where these technologies can be located with lowest risk for sensitive species and habitats, and to design energy policy so that the UK can meet emissions targets while having minimum impact on biodiversity.

The Energy Futures project was established in order to explore these complex issues and better understand how the UK can meet its climate targets in harmony with nature.

Project objectives

  • To assess the potential energy output from a range of renewable energy technologies using GIS mapping techniques, taking into account available resource and constraints on deployment and ecological sensitivity
  • To use the DECC 2050 Calculator to develop and compare a range of scenarios for meeting the UK's climate targets with low ecological risk, taking into account other considerations such as cost and energy security
  • To develop evidence-based policy recommendations that will ensure the ecological risks of meeting our 2050 emissions target are better understood, nature protection is treated as a key driver in energy policy decisions, and potential harmful impacts to the natural environment are minimised in the UK's low carbon transition.

Progress so far

  • The RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision report was launched at twin events in London and Edinburgh on 24 May, 2016, to present the project's research and recommendations, and to initiate a debate on how the UK can meet its climate targets in harmony with nature
  • The methods used in the project for mapping opportunities, constraints and ecological sensitivities for a range of onshore and offshore renewable technologies have been peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal (PLoS ONE).

Work planned or underway

The RSPB will continue to call on the UK Government and devolved administrations to follow the policy recommendations in 'The RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision' report, and campaign for the UK to deliver its 2050 climate targets in harmony with nature.

The future of energy affects all of us, and the whole of the natural world. Everyone needs to be part of this vital conversation. If you would like to get in touch, please do so using the contact details below. Or you can join the conversation online using #power4nature.

Results

Downloads

The RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision - summary report

The RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision - summary report

1.88Mb, PDF

Meeting the UK's climate targets in harmony with nature.

Date: 20 May 2016

Download

RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision - summary of recommendations

RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision - summary of recommendations

3.36Mb, PDF

Recommendations for achieving low carbon energy in harmony with nature in the UK

Date: 20 May 2016

Download

RSPB Scotland's 2050 Energy Vision - summary of recommendations

RSPB Scotland's 2050 Energy Vision - summary of recommendations

3.52Mb, PDF

Recommendations for achieving low carbon energy in harmony with nature in Scotland.

Date: 20 May 2016

Download

The RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision - technical report

The RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision - technical report

7.25Mb, PDF

Meeting the UK's climate targets in harmony with nature

Date: 20 May 2016

Download

Who to contact

Simon Marsh
Head of Sustainable Development Policy
E-mail: simon.marsh@rspb.org.uk

Partners

Thank you to The Crown Estate, The British Trust for Ornithology and Ecotricity who provided data for GIS mapping undertaken as part of the Energy Futures project. This data and the supporting advice provided greatly assisted with this research.