Building wind turbines on Scotland’s precious peatland could be catastrophic for the environment, according to a Scottish MEP.
Following a seminar given by key scientists at the European Parliament in Brussels, Struan Stevenson, MEP, is calling for action to stop any further building on peatland.
At the seminar, organised by Mr Stevenson, who is the president of the Intergroup on Sustainable Development, leading scientists agreed that building on peat bogs could be a disaster.
“We are getting the whole development of wind power catastrophically wrong if we allow wind farms to continue to be developed on peatland,” Mr Stevenson said.
There are 980 wind-farm proposals in place across Europe, of which 187 would be built on peatland. Some are gigantic wind farms, such as that proposed for on Lewis.
“This is a looming catastrophe,” said Mr Stevenson.
The problem of building wind farms on peat bogs was highlighted in a report in The Scotsman earlier this week.
The European Commission is drawing up a draft directive on renewable energy, and Mr Stevenson is pushing for it to include an amendment to cease all building on peat bogs – whether it be wind farms or other structures.
The process could take at least 18 months and he is worried about the number of wind farms that might be granted permission in the interim.
“I wanted the EC to call a moratorium of building on peat land while they carry out a more detailed analysis. But that is beyond the commission’s power, apparently,” he said.
Peatland is a natural carbon-storage system and about a sixth of the planet’s total is in Scotland. Professor Joseph Holden, of the University of Leeds, who is a specialist in wetland environments and carbon processes, told the seminar that extensive infrastructure would dry out vast areas of peatland.
When peatland dries out it loses carbon – a process that is irreversible. Mr Stevenson thinks it is ridiculous to destroy such an important resource, while at the same time there are huge amounts of research are going into creating artificial storage systems for carbon.
“Scotland, despite only having a 60th of the world’s land mass, has one-sixth of the total peat bogs. Peat bogs are Europe’s rainforests,” he said.
“The evidence we heard at the seminar makes it quite clear that by allowing this development we wreck the peat bog and irreversibly destroy its capability of acting as a carbon sink.
“It also releases tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.”
Mr Stevenson believes more thought is needed on how to move forward with renewable energy, including wind farms.
“We are rushing towards them without thinking of the consequences”, and whether these processes are sustainable,” he said.
By Jenny Haworth
17 April 2008
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