The role of offshore wind in the nature and climate emergency

Friday 5 November 2021

Kittiwake taking off from water, Farne Islands

Offshore wind will play a crucial role in the UK’s efforts to reach net zero; this was a key message at the Climate COP26.

However, installing this technology at the scale and pace needed to decarbonise our energy systems is no easy task.

Speakers at the COP26’s Offshore Wind and Biodiversity event made it clear that the nature and climate emergencies are indivisible; we cannot save nature without tackling climate change and we cannot reach net zero without a healthy environment. That includes our seas which provide us with food, green energy, carbon stores and amazing nature which often underpins local economies.

The UK Government has rightly set ambitious targets for offshore wind deployment requiring a four-fold upscaling by 2030. To enable the shift from fossil fuels, rapid development is set to continue in the early 2030s and beyond.

However, as yet there is no roadmap for our energy transition resulting in a scramble for sea space, delays to development and nature losses. This includes our globally important seabirds, habitats which lock away carbon and provide homes for prey species like sandeel.

The dual nature and climate emergency needs joint solutions which was emphasised by speakers at the COP26 event, including representatives from industry governmental bodies and conservation organisations. This alignment is evidence of the necessity and urgency with which we must adopt this approach. But government action remains the missing piece of the puzzle. The UK Government and devolved administrations need to show precisely how they plan to fill the gap between warm words and effective actions.

As host of COP26, the UK Government has an opportunity to show world leadership on sustainable climate action. We are calling for an end to poorly planned offshore development which jeopardises both nature and net zero. We need a new approach that integrates our renewable deployment and action to revive our seas to ensure a truly green energy revolution. This must include:

  • Renewed efforts to reduce the impacts of renewable technologies (e.g. technological innovation)
  • Marine planning, based on updated evidence , to help planners protect the most sensitive areas for wildlife and find space for marine activities.
  • Government led action to address the state of our seas (e.g. fisheries management to reduce bycatch and set aside enough food for wildlife).

Our seas and climate cannot wait; as also noted by COP26 event speakers, collaboration will be vital in tackling these challenges in the necessary timeframe. The RSPB is already working closely with other organisations and we look forward to increased joint efforts and cross-sector collaboration to set us on course for ocean recovery and net zero.

To find out more

Read about how the RSPB speaking up for kittiwakes, puffins and our other amazing seabirds while the governments of the UK plan new offshore wind developments here.

Lean about how is the RSPB responding to the threats to our globally important seabird colonies and the 8 million seabirds that live and raise their young in the UK here.

Discover why sandeels are crucial for the health of our seabirds and what the RSPB is doing to call for the governments of the UK to protect them here.

At COP26 world leaders will make long-lasting choices that will affect our day-to-day lives. We need to show that action speaks louder than words and we need your help. Simply take an action for nature, and tell us what you’ve done. Then you’ll stand with thousands of others to demand decision-makers follow our lead. Find out more about how to stand up for nature here.

Tagged with: Country: UK Country Topic: Conservation