I've always admired the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. They are one of the largest membership organisations in the country. Over the years they will have had plenty of pressure on them to oppose planning applications for wind turbine and wind farm developments but they have taken a pretty robust line saying from the start that,
"Climate Change poses the single greatest threat to birds and other wildlife and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem"
Its a bold opening statement but they do follow through and only object to about 6% of wind applications and that was when the UK Government hadn't to all intents and purposes practically outlawed onshore wind farms and turbines. They are still strong defenders of avians and are not shy to say where there are inappropriate wind developments but not as many as misinformed Mail readers and retired Colonels would like I'm more than sure. They speak of the need for wind farms to be sited away from major migration routes and breeding/roosting areas and point to examples of poor sitings of wind farms but generally not in the UK.
So why this interest? Well tomorrow I'm speaking at an event in Brussels looking at the impact on biodiversity of renewable energy and how to minimise it. What I've been encouraged by through reading the literature is the desire from both perspectives to seek common ground and a real expectation that it can be found.
Kent Wildlife Trust have produced some good principles by which sustainable (as opposed to just renewable energy) can be measured. These 6 principles are good ones to assess any renewable energy development. They are to :-
- Commit to ensuring overall positive outcomes for wildlife from the outset, aiming for a ‘net biodiversity gain’.
- Avoid sites that are designated for nature conservation.
- Identify potential negative impacts on wildlife and avoid these impacts wherever possible.
- When all possible options have negative impacts, seek the least environmentally damaging option.
- Recognise that there may be unknown impacts on wildlife that development needs to consider and mitigate, employing the ‘precautionary principle’.
- Achieve this by consulting experts and relevant stakeholders early on ecological aspects of sites and routes.
Now my role in this debate is to assess from a UK perspective how renewable energy developments interact and match EU Nature Legislation. To be fair the EU legislation is pretty good in this regard and has at its heart a desire to balance the needs of humanity with the natural world. The question I have is will that same balanced approach be one that we will realise with our current government? As they have made it practically impossible to install wind technology on our island I think balance is the last thing they are seeking. They don't seek to harness the wind but to simply bend in the wind to a vocal minority most likely from their own potential supporters. Far from 'taking back control' from the EU we will be passing it on to narrow perspectives with no appreciation of the real issues. A triumph for the ill informed opinions of the guy in the pub over anyone who actually knows what they're talking about.
So here's 'Reap the wild wind' by Ultravox