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25/05/2016

Strategic planning to protect wildlife and boost renewable energy, says RSPB

Words: Huw Morris

Strategic planning that puts nature first by identifying key sites for renewable energy schemes will help the UK meet its climate targets by 2050, according to a major study.

A chief recommendation in the RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision says national, regional and local spatial planning would steer renewable energy developments towards the least ecologically sensitive sites, which it describes as a limited and valuable resource.

Backed by robust strategic environmental assessment, this approach would maximise limited resources, minimise planning conflicts and lead to more efficient outcomes, the report says.

The RSPB’s vision sets out a mapping methodology to support such strategic planning by identifying areas with resource opportunities, constraints and ecological sensitivities for renewable energy schemes. These schemes would avoid key areas of wildlife such as Natura 2000 sites, protected under the EU Birds and Habitats Directive, as well as sites of special scientific interest.

This approach would also identify opportunities for enhancing biodiversity alongside renewable energy generation. The report claims strategic planning of the UK’s energy future in harmony with nature will be “quicker, easier and more sustainable” if based on solid ecological evidence.

Investing in surveys and remote tracking of sensitive species, especially in the marine environment, would help pave the way for industry to move forward more rapidly and cost-effectively while reducing risks to wildlife and habitats.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said poor planning only risked damaging valuable areas for wildlife.

“Let’s use the planning system to ensure better deployment of these technologies.”

Rising to the challenge of climate change will require a “major roll out of renewable and low carbon energy sources” Harper explained.

“This report is our latest contribution to the debate by showing how a low-carbon, high-renewable energy future can be achieved in the UK in harmony with nature – based on the currently available evidence.”

The report can be found here.

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