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
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
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
Well, none of us made money from William Hill, who offered bets of 1,000/1 that Chancellor Darling would dye his eyebrows green to chime with The Greenest Budget Ever.
And no painter worth his salt would have given tuppence for the washed out shades Mr Darling offered in the name of stability, stability, stability, even if he did use the words climate change and environment 15 times.
There was nothing last Wednesday to make pseudo-green biofuel genuinely green and therefore no measures to halt the habitat destruction underway across the world in the name of saving the planet.
And those hoping the red box would contain the promise that the extra landfill tax millions, set to swell Treasury coffers, would mean substantially more money for work to meet the government’s own wildlife action plan targets, were left feeling fairly blue. An extra £5 million will be available via the Landfill Communities Fund, but it could have been so much more.
But the government does ‘recognise the importance’ of environmental protection, Mr Darling assured us.
On biofuels, the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation goes ahead next month ignoring the pleas of the RSPB, more than 14,000 RSPB supporters, groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, Prof John Beddington - the government’s new Chief Scientific Advisor - and the UN.
All of us have warned that the demand for biofuel from Europe and the States is hastening damage to rainforest, savannah, peatlands and grasslands worldwide, despite the production of many of those fuels increasing not cutting greenhouse gases.
Disappearing with those unique habitats is rare wildlife, some of it found no-where else. Professor David Suzuki wrote in the Guardian last week that more than 50,000 species were going extinct every year.
On carbon targets, the Chancellor announced (again) that the 60 per cent target for cutting gas emissions by 2050 would be reviewed and could be raised to 80 per cent. A tentative step forward but one that would not have been necessary had 80 per cent been the target for the Climate Change Bill from the start.
The budget guaranteed an inflationary rise in the climate change levy – the charge on suppliers of lighting, heating and power - which at least means it won’t go down.
And on the EU’s much maligned emissions trading scheme, Mr Darling confirmed the governments desire to auction all carbon allowances from the electricity sector - a decision to be made in Brussels.
This could reap billions of pounds for EU governments but it is not clear where that money will go and how it will be used and especially if it will be used to improve energy efficiency and fund other measures to combat climate change.
The delay in raising fuel duty by 2p/litre was no surprise and very much a sop to the powerful motoring lobby. The new pollution tax bands for cars were better but the switch from air passenger duty to a charge per flight was pure greenwash. Payment per flight will increase anyway given the level of government support for airport expansion. At least charities were also placed in the let-off-the-hook box, albeit at the last minute. The Chancellor is retaining the same level of Gift Aid, which left the RSPB and the other 190,000 UK charities breathing a heavy sigh of relief.
They’re doing it in California. They’re doing it in New Zealand. They’re even doing it in Canada, a country rarely heralded for its environmental concern and one that, despite being amongst the first to sign, all but ditched the Kyoto climate change accord in 2006 Yet the UK has refused to do it. This is the UK set to boast the world’s first climate change legislation. And it is the UK that only today has forced the EU to consider cutting VAT on eco-friendly goods like fridges and washing machines. But it is also the UK that will next month force us to buy more biofuel, despite the habitat devastation biofuel manufacture is causing worldwide. Moreover, it is the same UK that this week refused to rule out new coal-fired power stations, with Industry Minister, John Hutton, all but sanctioning ten new plants before there is any chance of underground storage of their carbon emissions. Yet the Canadian government on Monday ruled that from 2012, no new coal-fired plants will be built until they are fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, a move which effectively bans coal until at least 2020, saving millions of tonnes of CO2.
This follows the decision of the New Zealand government last October to all but outlaw new fossil-fuel power stations. And under the ‘California Standard’ – or Low-Carbon Fuel Standard passed by the state in January last year - power companies can only generate electricity in California if their operations meet minimum efficiency levels. This rules out coal until CCS is available. That’s what you call action to tackle climate change. If the UK government must use coal, the dirtiest fuel source there is, then it must also wait until CCS facilities are up and running. There is no rationale for using coal again until its climate damage can be contained. Check these links for more on Canada, New Zealand and California
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