The UK Government’s announcement to dramatically increase the energy-generating capacity from offshore wind is welcome evidence of its commitment to embrace green energy and face up to the challenge of climate change.
However, the RSPB is alarmed that without a proper marine planning system-implemented through comprehensive legislation for the UK, there will be a Klondyke-like rush to develop wind energy, putting sensitive marine habitats and species – including seabirds, fish and whales – at great risk.
Dr Mark Avery is the Society’s Conservation Director. Commenting on the proposals, he said: ‘Today’s announcement represents a great step forward in helping to combat climate change, but potentially it is devastating news for the marine environment and threatened wildlife.
‘We need an offshore wind industry that is the envy of the world, but the lack of information about sites of importance for wildlife will create difficulties. The UK Government’s commitment to strategic environmental assessments is welcome, but resources must be secured to collect the robust data we need to guide development choices and identify marine protected areas.
‘Without this information, developers will be forced to play ‘pin the tail on the donkey’, hoping to avoid important wildlife sites. The failure to introduce new marine legislation means that we still do not have a proper planning system for the sea. This will create needless battles between developers and conservationists at a time when everyone wants to get on with the job of protecting our marine environment while helping to combat climate change.’
The RSPB will work with government, to help make the roll out of offshore wind energy as smooth as possible. To do this, however, the Government must work with the devolved administrations to:
* Gather the data needed to help developers choose the right sites for windfarms, and to fulfil the UK’s commitments to protecting marine wildlife. It should prioritise data gathering and site designation in those areas which the wind industry specifies offer the greatest potential for development.
* Take responsibility for creating a marine planning system which can manage the many complex interests around our coasts.
* Reform Ofgem and the grid network to help deliver the energy revolution we need.
10 December 2007
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