Climate change

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Climate change

News and views from the RSPB on climate change and what you can do about it.
  • Less Waste, More Growth: over half of UK electricity supply wasted before it's even used

    By Ivan Scrase, Senior Climate Change Policy Officer

    As a whole, the UK electricity system wastes a staggering £9.5 billion from the loss of energy before it reaches homes and businesses.

    To tackle climate change we know we need new energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and that we need to make sure these are developed in harmony with nature. We also need to cut energy waste - to get emissions down and to limit the total amount of new infrastructure we will need.

    Less Waste, More Growth: Boosting energy productivity is published today by a coalition of 14 organisations, including those that represent industrial manufacturers and leading environmental groups such as the RSPB and Greenpeace.

    From environmental advocates to large-scale industrial energy users to building service providers, we are able to agree on the opportunity energy productivity provides to create jobs, reduce costs and help the environment.

    The analysis, led by the Association for Decentralised Energy, identifies the total loss of energy is worth the equivalent of £354 per household, more than half the average UK annual electricity bill (£592).

    This waste equals the power generated by: 37 nuclear power stations; a landmass the size of England of bioenergy crops; or wind turbines covering 40% of Scotland.

    The report outlines a number of immediate, practical and cost-effective ways of reducing this waste, which could save the equivalent of £116 on every householder’s energy bill; a total of over £3 billion a year.

    • Inherited from the public system of the 1960s and 70s, less than 10% of UK power stations currently recover waste heat, and this represents a missed opportunity to save £2 billion annually.
    • The UK could save the equivalent of £23 per household just by upgrading our electricity network's efficiency to match that of Germany's.
    • Appropriate, long term policy support could cost-effectively reduce business and public sector bills by £570 million, improving competitiveness and investment.

    The report outlines three main recommendations to help achieve these savings.

    1. Government should aim to improve energy system productivity year on year as is done in competitor countries like the United States and Germany, with the purpose of reducing energy costs for users.

    2. Electricity generators, networks and businesses should be able to contribute to a strong, more productive economy. For business, this means combining a revised energy tax regime with clear, simple and investable policy to leverage improvements in energy productivity

    3.  Government should enhance the natural market direction with a more solution-based approach to its energy policy assessments, allowing the demand side and the supply side to compete equally. 

    The full report can be read and downloaded here:

  • New RSPB analysis: 293 of England's best wildlife sites at risk from fracking

    RSPB Nagshead was one of the nature reserves where I developed my love not only for wildlife but also for the RSPB. Thrillingly, this woodland haven was my closest RSPB reserve as a child. The pied flycatchers and redstarts, and the possibility of adders, were a draw every Spring.

    That this reserve, that holds a special place in my heart, and many like it could be at risk of being undermined by fracking for oil and gas saddens me. But Nagshead is just one of nine of the RSPB's reserves at risk from new fracking licences.

    New analysis that my colleagues in our data unit have done allows us to show for the first time that in the 159 new licences for onshore oil and gas issued across England this summer, 293 of our best wildlife sites, including nine RSPB reserves are at risk.

    Fracking could result in habitat loss and fragmentation, in noise and light disturbances and even chemical pollution, all of which could harm wildlife, watercourses and habitats. 

    The 293 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) fall at least partially, in some cases entirely, outside any of the other protected areas that Government has promised to protect from fracking under these licences, or outside the Natura 2000 sites that Government is rightly already protecting under the Birds and Habitats Directives by placing conditions on licences.

    SSSIs are some of the England’s most special and sensitive wildlife sites.

    We're asking Government to stick to a promise they made in February to ban fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites, The Broads and SSSIs.

    Right now, we're particularly concerned that SSSIs seem to have fallen off their list, and that they haven’t yet acted to rule out fracking in any of these other sites either.

    We find the Government's explanation, that banning fracking in SSSIs would remove too much land for industry, strange. SSSIs make up a tiny percentage of land under the new licences. And only 14% of those SSSIs fall outside another protected area where Government are promising to ban fracking.

    So we're talking about just 0.9% of the entire licensing area. This area would have a tiny impact in where industry could go, but could make a huge difference for UK wildlife.

    We'd like to see fracking ruled out within all these protected areas. Government can also protect wildlife by banning fracking under them (which in turn could incentivise fracking wells being placed near them). And in some or possibly all cases some sort of buffer zone around protected areas at the surface may be appropriate too.

    You can email Amber Rudd here and ask her to keep this promise.

    We still have a series of concerns about the regulations around fracking that go beyond excluding protected areas. And we're yet to be convinced that fracking is a wise energy choice when we need to be bringing down our emissions and investing in new low carbon energy.

    The new licences only cover England. Licensing in Northern Ireland is devolved, and no licences were awarded in Wales. In Scotland, no licenses were issued as this is due to be devolved to the Scottish Government soon, and the Scottish Government has also imposed a moratorium on fracking until a full public consultation has taken place, where we hope to see full consideration of potential impacts of unconventional gas and oil on habitats and wildlife.

    Right now, we're simply asking Amber Rudd to keep a promise she made back in February to ban fracking in our best and most beautiful and sensitive sites for wildlife. 

  • Guest blog: saving the world can be à la mode

    Guest blog by Ela Maczkiewicz, young RSPB supporter

    Can our generation really save the planet? The question all comes down to if we actually want to save the planet, and how fashionable or trendy it is to stop climate change. The growing worries of our elders may cast an unbelievably boring shadow over the heads of teenagers and youths, but the real reason we don’t want to listen and can’t be bothered, is because of the way the information is being given to us.

    As your average self-obsessed, image conscious teenager, I tend to do what looks good. Meaning that I find the need to do things that also benefit me. Not only this, but I am also a keen geographer. For my A levels I hope to take geography, along with maths, biology and chemistry. I therefor find it of the utmost importance to try and save the planet, and recently my want to do this is showing elsewhere around my generation. 

    Walking down the cobbled and claustrophobic streets of my native Cambridge, I find there a growing culture of recyclable bags, with huge labels on them, boasting their reusability. Furthermore, even going to a concert, certain merchandise has the label “I used to be a …..” not only do I have to Instagram my new buy, but also show to my friendship network how cool and super eco-friendly I am.  

    This is the future of preventing climate change.

    Hashtags are the new protests and rallies. Photo trends and edits are the updated petitions. Challenge videos are the modernised awareness adverts. The growing age of digital communication and trends aren’t just consuming modern culture and media, but actually important and substantial topics.

    Recently Instagram has been recently ablaze with pictures and hashtags all about the decreasing beauty of the Amazon rainforest, the disgusting pollution of our oceans, or the ever-growing murky sky. Internet vloggers, those who have a larger brain span than a tea spoon, have actually left behind their shopping hauls and come onto the topic of recycling and conservation. Even one of my own personal favourite sites, Pinterest, is having an all-time high in DIY recycling and making new things out of the old.

    From Harrogate to Heathrow, from County Durham to Cornwall and from Newcastle to Nottingham, internet hipsters are starting the new interconnected revolution and war against climate change. The breath-taking effort of tree huggers worldwide has taken modern society by storm.

    With the right filter, the right font type or the right promotion, any message can be successful – it’s now our job to take advantage of this, and utilise this power.

    I believe that the main way organisations can start to do this, is through social networking and targeting popular culture. A single beautiful photo or a bright label on a bag can spark off the biggest of trends. The older generation’s growing concerns paired with our generation’s innovative and modern techniques could metamorphose the planet into saving ourselves.

    Going back to the question – can our generation save the planet?

    There is no doubt that we have the capacity to save the planet, but whether we have the motivation to, is an entirely different matter.