This week was very worrying for those who care about Scotland’s seabirds. It wasn’t because of a winter storm, hundreds of unexplained deaths, or a snowstorm, but because of an announcement about new offshore wind development.
RSPB Scotland supports offshore winds and urges more renewable energy to tackle climate change. We are facing a climate and natural emergency. Any major development, including windfarms or any other type of windfarm, must not impact on wildlife and bring benefits to both climate and the environment.
Scotland, which is known for its wildlife, landscapes and biodiversity, is one the most nature-depleted nations in the world. Although much of this loss is historical in nature, one-in-nine species of our species are at high risk of becoming extinct.
Seabirds are the most affected: their numbers have dropped by 49% since mid-1980s. However, weve lost more Arctic terns, 70% of Arctic kittiwakes, and 80% Arctic skuas. Even the most famous seabird, the puffin, is facing declines that threaten its future.
We were surprised by Crown Estate Scotland’s announcement that developers have the option to build on 7,000 kilometres of Scotland’s seabed for up 24.8GW offshore wind energy. We (and others) expected around 10GW across 2,000 kilometres, as this was the cap established by the Scottish Government to limit environmental harm.
The thousands of seabirds that will be killed annually by the offshore wind developments are already in operation or under construction. This includes puffins as well as kittiwakes. The announcement of this week’s magnitude can have more impact than expected and only increase the pressure on Scotland’s seabirds. This was despite it not being mentioned.
We were happy to share our concerns with the Environment and Rural Affairs minister earlier this week. It was clear from the statement of the Cabinet Secretary in Parliament that the government is aware of the damage to our natural environment that every development must consider. The significant cumulative damage that this ambitious development programme has caused must be addressed strategically. Government must set the expectations and approach.
We call on the Scottish government to ensure that offshore wind development in Scottish waters doesn’t just reduce the number seabirds killed, but also has benefits for seabirds. This will require a clear indication of the importance of these projects and a commitment towards the restoration. If funding was available, many restoration activities could be accomplished quickly. The Scottish Ministers should allocate substantial amounts of the initial 700 million from the exploitation Scotland’s natural environment to restoration of our natural environment.
The First Minister stated that the nature crisis is just as important as climate change and that she hopes Scotland will lead the way in protecting and restoring nature. To achieve this, the measures taken to combat climate change must not have catastrophic impacts on nature. It doesn’t have be a choice. Green energy can be achieved with proper planning and clear vision.
Anne McCall is the director of RSPB Scotland