March, 2008

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.

In the news

A week of the RSPB and wildlife in the news, delivered every Friday
  • Relocation, relocation, relocation

    Wildlife will need new places to go if temperatures rise significantly because of climate change.

    Droughts, winds and floods will all alter habitats so much that species, including many birds, will be forced to move to find new land on which to feed and breed.

    We warned of this last year when we announced our hopes of transforming a large part of Wallasea Island in Essex into a nature reserve. In January, the Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds predicted that many could be forced to relocate more than 400 miles north-east because of climate change. Now, the conservation group WWF, is saying the same of Australia.

    WWF’s report, featured in the Independent, warns that only 11 per cent of Australia is protected yet, that habitats will become uninhabitable for some species if temperatures rise by as little as 0.5C. WWF Australia says that even if greenhouse gas emissions were cut to zero overnight, temperatures would still increase by 0.4C by 2050. 

    Lapwings and redshank have been struggling for some time in south-east England because dry summers have left the wetlands they use for raising chicks parched. Numbers of these birds in the region have dropped significantly as a result.

    In the uplands, the ring ouzel and golden plover are, respectively, being affected by drier earth and the earlier hatching of insect prey. There could be impacts on migrating birds like pied flycatchers too. Arriving back to breed at the same time each spring could become too late to catch the insect glut the chicks of these birds need to survive.

    In a report last year, the RSPB warned that without improvements to existing habitats and the creation of new areas into which wildlife could move, some species might not survive.

    Even less land in the UK – just four per cent – is primarily managed for nature conservation and we think this figure should be increased to 20 per cent if we are not to lose some of our wildlife.

    If the Wallasea proposals bear fruit, the transformation of this east coast farmland into a tidal wetland will be magical. But more than that, it will set a blazing example to the government of just how large areas, in this case land threatened by rising sea levels, can be put to good use benefiting people as well as wildlife.

    WWF Australia says that many animals will have no place left to go if emissions continue to rise and land is altered too much. This is true and is true the world over. The RSPB is trying to tackle that in a relatively small part of Essex. The UK government and other governments must tackle it in much larger parts of the territories they claim to oversee.

    Read more about plans for Wallasea Island here

    And about the RSPB report, Climate change, wildlife and adaptation, here

    There is more on the Climatic Atlas here

    And the Independent’s feature is here

  • Don't even buy British (if you have a choice)

    The RSPB is criticised today on the website of Farming Today following interviews of both RSPB and BirdLife experts on programme features dealing with food prices, biofuels and set-aside.
    We stand by our comments because we believe that biofuels, though by no means all bad, are currently not up to the job of helping tackle climate change.

    The production of some biofuels could be increasing not cutting greenhouse gas emissions – because of the emissions produced when land is logged, ploughed up or drained, and those from the use of fertilisers on energy crops.

    The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation which comes into force next month will not solve these or other environmental problems. Even minimum safeguards guaranteeing sustainability and emissions cuts are excluded until 2010 and 2011 so there will be no proof that the biofuel we buy from next month is genuinely green, or that it isn't doing environmental and social harm.

    And even the UK government has admitted that proposed carbon and sustainability standards, whether compulsory or voluntary, will not prevent biofuels policies harming the climate, vulnerable communities or the wider environment, through displacement of food production or via price rises in world commodity markets.

    Future biofuels could and should help tackle climate change but British-produced biofuels could be no better than those produced and imported from abroad because manufacturers will have no obligation to prove their fuel is green.

    Read comments and listen again to Farming Today here

    More on the RSPB’s biofuels campaign here

  • Could it be that aviators really care?

    Sir Richard Branson today defends his company’s efforts to help tackle climate change.

    Virgin last week flew a plane partly on biofuel to show that it was possible. Branson’s firm is also sending power back to the National Grid from the hi-tech braking system on its trains, has cut emissions by 40 per cent through the installation of solar panels on a hotel in Morocco and is investing in wind and wave power elsewhere, Branson says.

    At the same time, Tom Enders of Airbus has called on the aviation industry to take climate change in hand and react to it before regulators react much more harshly to those flying planes.

    He said last week that he and his counterparts must do much more but also that he, and they, had done much already to cut aircraft pollution. Even so, he is right that aviation ‘must move to the forefront of eco-efficiency’.

    Most people are not going to cut the number of times they fly any time soon. That does not mean the government and regional planning authorities should facilitate any increase in flights, by expanding existing airports such as Stansted and building new ones such as Lydd in Kent.

    Whilst BA, which dismissed Virgin’s biofuels flight as a PR stunt, is not willing to play, could it be that others in the aviation world are starting to take climate change seriously?

    Small steps their actions may be and their incentives for taking them may be far from altruistic. Steps they are nonetheless. It is time now that government took much larger steps towards cutting our carbon emissions. Ministers should start by shelving next month’s order to increase biofuel sales until there is proof that biofuels are not hastening climate change, and then raise its emissions reduction target from 60 per cent to 80 per cent in the forthcoming Climate Change Bill.

    Click here for more on the RSPB's biofuels campaign

    To read Richard Branson's response, click here

    And for Tom Enders, click here