By Pip Roddis, Climate Policy Officer
As we know, renewable energy is vital part of the toolkit to mitigate climate change and reduce climate impacts on wildlife. The RSPB uses renewable energy across many of our nature reserves, including solar panels, sustainable biomass and small-scale wind turbines, and later this year we will be putting up a medium sized wind turbine at our UK Headquarters.
This wind turbine alone is expected to generate the equivalent of two thirds of the RSPB’s total UK electricity needs, and it is estimated that it will reduce UK emissions by just over 1000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
We know that if appropriately sited and properly managed, renewable energy technologies can be deployed whilst also protecting wildlife and habitats and they deliver significant carbon savings. The RSPB favours a broad mix of renewables including solar, wind and marine energy technologies, as long as they are sensitively sited to avoid impacts on wildlife and the wider natural environment.
As one of the UK's leading environmental organisations, we think it is important for the RSPB to play a proactive role in leading action on tackling climate change and deploying renewable energy. However, the transition to a more sustainable energy system will need to happen right across the UK economy.
It is vital that the newly elected Government maintains its commitment to renewable energy, and continues to support renewable energy developments that are genuinely low carbon. We have written elsewhere about the issues surrounding biomass power stations, which can emit more carbon than they save, yet continue to receive low carbon subsidies.
The UK is currently on track to meet its renewable energy targets, but there is still a long way to go, and this Government is going to have to show leadership and ambition in order to keep us on course and maintain a stable policy environment for renewable energy. So let’s keep calm, and carry on.
My boss, Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, has already blogged about what the new Government could mean for our wildlife.
The dust is still settling and many questions remain unanswered, but we can be sure that one of the biggest challenges for the Government (and for wildlife) will be climate change.
Fortunately the new Government is committed to lowering our emissions in line with our domestic and international commitments. It might feel like a hazy and distant memory but, as Greg Barker (former Conservative Climate Minister) has reminded us today, David Cameron made an important pledge on climate change only a few short weeks ago. In this pledge, coordinated by Green Alliance against the backdrop of The Climate Coalition’s Show the love campaign, our Prime Minister (and the other main party leaders) committed to strong domestic and international action on climate change if re-elected. We strongly welcome that commitment.
On June 17, thousands of us will be joining The Climate Coalition in London for Speak Up For The Love Of, the largest ever climate change lobby of Parliament, to call on this new Government to live up to that pledge and to go beyond it.
You can sign up and find out more here.
Almost overnight two important new pieces of research on climate change have been published.
Research by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute has managed to find the fingerprint of global warming in increasingly warm years in England. 2014 was a record-breaking warm year, despite not having any individual record-breaking months within it. The signs of climate change have become so obvious that it is now possible to see the effect at scales as localised as England, rather than just seeing the impact at a global scale.
The report finds that hot years like 2014 are at least 13 times more likely due to climate change. Several years ago there was severe reluctance to attribute individual weather events or changes in local weather to climate change, but that reluctance seems to be slipping away as the evidence becomes clearer.
Warmer weather might sound nice, but it could play havoc with many things, including our wildlife.
The second piece of research, carried out by the University of Connecticut, shows that if we keep climate change within politically agreed limits of a rise of no more than two degrees, one in 20 species will go extinct. If it rises by four degrees by the end of the century, not even the highest estimate, then one in six species of wildlife could go extinct. Those with restricted ranges or on islands (and unable to move to escape the impacts) will be worst affected - in places like Australia and New Zealand.
So, two new pieces of research, undertaken separately, but that tell a compelling story: we are seeing climate change's local impacts more and more clearly, and we're increasingly sure about the kinds of loss and damage that climate change will cause. Together, these both spell bad news for wildlife.
If you want to Speak Up for the wildlife you love and that could be affected by climate change, come along to the largest ever climate meeting with MPs, on 17 June. We hope we'll see you there.
Research shows orangutans will be more affected this century by climate change than by habitat loss
Photo: Matt Adam Williams