Puffins will be driven to extinction by offshore wind plan, warns RSPB

Puffins and other seabirds will be driven to extinction by Boris Johnson’s plan to power Britain with ‘limitless’ offshore wind energy by 2030, warns RSPB

  • Charity said Government’s green energy plan risks ‘irreversible seabird losses’
  • Offshore wind farms are frequently set up in shallow waters, where birds feed 
  • RSPB has urged Boris Johnson to keep his objectives ‘in harmony with nature’
  • It follows the PM pledging to install 1GW of floating turbines around the coast

Puffins and other seabirds will be driven to extinction by Boris Johnson’s plan to power Britain with ‘limitless’ offshore wind energy by 2020, the RSPB has warned.

The conservation charity has urged the Government to keep its objectives ‘in harmony with nature’, recommending to build solar and wind panels in areas with a lower level of biodiversity.

It follows the Prime Minister earlier this month setting out a green energy plan, which will see thousands of coastal turbines built in the coming years.

The conservation charity has warned the Government’s plans risk ‘irreversible seabird losses’ (pictured: a puffin flying from the rock face at Bempton Cliffs on England’s north-east coast)

The RSPB has recommended to build solar and wind panels in areas with a lower level of biodiversity (pictured: a Manx Shearwater nesting in a cave in the UK)

Puffins are listed in the red category of conservation importance, meaning there has been at least a 50 per cent decline in their UK breeding population over the last 25 years.

Seabirds can get caught in the sharp propellers of offshore wind farms, which are also frequently set up in shallow waters where the animals feed.

A spokesperson for the RSPB told The Telegraph: ‘Our seabirds and marine environment are in trouble, facing a cocktail of threats from human pressures and climate change.

‘Without transforming how we plan development in our seas alongside the delivery of meaningful conservation measures, these combined threats risk irreversible seabird losses.’

The charity added: ‘We risk losing our globally significant breeding colonies to “a thousand cuts” where no individual scheme is responsible but collectively the impact is devastating.’

Mr Johnson has pledged to move at ‘gale force speed’ to make Britain the world leader in offshore wind technology and create up to 60,000 jobs.  

A Great Skua taking off from moorland at Hermaness National Nature Reserve in Scotland’s Shetland Islands. Seabirds can get caught in the sharp propellers of offshore wind farms

A Northern Gannet in flight soaring over the ocean along the Scottish coast. Offshore wind farms are frequently set up in shallow waters, where seabirds feed

What are some of the UK’s most important seabird species?

Puffin: With breeding colonies at only a few sites including Yorkshire’s Bempton Cliffs and Anglesey’s South Stack, the black and white bird is a Red List species in the UK.

Gannet: The large and bright white bird has 220,000 nests in the UK and is an amber list species. Britain is home to 68 per cent of the world’s northern gannets.

Manx Shearwater: The species breed on some islands off the west coast of the UK, including Skomer in Wales, and spends the winter on the coast of South America. 

Arctic Skua: With its conservation status listed as red, the seabird has only 2,136 pairs in the UK and is most easily seen in the Shetland and Orkney Islands.

Great Skua: Spotted on rocky islands and moorland, the amber-listed species arrives at its breeding grounds in April and leaves in July.

Arctic Tern: Locally named ‘sea swallow’, the summer visitor to the UK is mostly seen at the Farne Islands in Northumberland or on the Northern Isles, and is an amber-listed species.

Source: RSPB 

His announcement will see the Government invest £160million in upgrading ports and infrastructure in areas including Teesside and the Humber to help manufacture and install the next generation of offshore turbines. 

The Prime Minister also pledged to install 1GW of floating turbines around the coast – 15 times the world’s total current capacity. 

A report published by Aurora Energy Research suggested increasing the offshore target to 40GW could ultimately cost £50 billion.

The firm said: ‘Analysis by Aurora Energy Research shows that reaching the 40GW by 2030 target will require 30GW of capacity to be commissioned during the 2020s- three times as much as that installed during the 2010s.

‘This would require one turbine to be installed every weekday during the whole of the 2020s, and almost £50bn in capital investment.’ 

Downing Street previously said ‘it is not about government investment alone’ when the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman was asked about the £50bn cost estimate. 

Labour’s shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband said the UK’s commitment to green energy ‘pales in comparison’ to its European neighbours.

He earlier said: ‘Nothing in the Prime Minister’s re-announcement today on wind energy targets will tackle the immediate jobs crisis our country faces. 

‘We need ambition on renewable energy, but Boris Johnson rarely delivers on his rhetoric.’ 

Mr Johnson said that his wind power pledge would mean ‘your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle – the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands’. 

He added: ‘I remember how some people used to sneer at wind power, 20 years ago, and say that it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.

‘They forgot the history of this country. It was offshore wind that puffed the sails of Drake and Raleigh and Nelson, and propelled this country to commercial greatness.’

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