UK: RSPB advises on achieving wildlife-friendly 2050 climate target

New research by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) states that the UK’s 2050 climate targets can be achieved using high levels of renewable energy, with low risk for wildlife and protected areas.

‘The RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision’ shows how renewable technologies could meet the majority of UK’s energy needs whilst avoiding harm to important species and habitats.

It outlines three energy scenarios that meet climate targets in harmony with nature. In addition to high levels of renewable energy, the scenarios demonstrate the importance of demand reduction and energy storage.

The scenarios include a range of renewables alongside energy storage, interconnection with other countries, and smart grid networks which will enable better matching of energy supply and demand, RSPB states.

This research was carried out by RSPB scientists who developed mapping approaches to assess where renewable energy technologies including onshore wind, solar, bioenergy, offshore wind, wave and tidal energy could be located to avoid sensitive wildlife areas, taking account of other planning constraints such as infrastructure and land needed for food production.

The RSPB has found that the UK has the potential to deliver up to four times its current energy consumption from renewable sources, if a strategic approach to planning is taken to avoid important species and habitats.

However, the charity says that further investment in monitoring of wildlife distributions and sensitivities, especially in the marine environment, along with a strategic use of spatial planning, is essential to ensure future developments are located appropriately and our finest wildlife areas safeguarded.

Based on these findings, RSPB Scotland has set out following 10 recommendations for the Scottish Government to decarbonise energy in harmony with nature:

  1. Set the ambition: 50% renewable energy by 2030
  2. Use a plan-led approach to help identify suitable sites and minimise conflicts
  3. Develop a roadmap for decarbonisation in harmony with nature
  4. Eliminate energy waste, including measures to improve energy performance of buildings
  5. Invest in understanding the impacts of different technologies on wildlife, to help developers progress schemes in the right places, and to ensure they can enhance nature wherever possible
  6. Invest in innovation to unlock low carbon technologies such as energy storage and floating wind turbines
  7. Transform low carbon heat and transport: set targets for renewable heat and zero emissions vehicles
  8. Make economic incentives work for nature and the climate, including support for well-sited onshore wind and solar energy
  9. Set robust standards to ensure bioenergy benefits, rather than harms wildlife
  10. Support a grid network that accommodates high levels of renewable energy