Puffins and other seabirds will be driven to extinction by Boris Johnson’s plan to power Britain with ‘limitless’ offshore wind energy by 2030, 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)
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.
Gareth Cunningham, the RSPB’s principal marine policy officer, told MailOnline: ‘The Government need to plan how to move and tackle the climate change threat as well as the ecological threat.
‘We can’t solve one without damaging the other so we need to do these developments in harmony with nature, which is why we’re concerned about the scale of ambition.
‘Moving to cleaner energy should definitely be recommended, it’s just about the way that we get there.’
He added: ‘We would like to see the Government take a strong steer in deciding where these developments happen, how they are resourced and make sure plans are moved into areas with lower or zero impact on seabird populations.
‘We really need to think about the plan being led with nature in mind rather than nature as a secondary consideration.’
The charity said it is particularly concerned about the kittiwake population, which forages for food in shallow waters, and gannets.
Mr Cunningham explained: ‘Areas suitable for wind farm development also happen to be foraging areas for these seabirds.
‘They could also act as barrier in term of visual impacts. Seabirds will fly around wind farms in foraging areas so they spend more energy and during nesting season will spend a longer period of time away from the nest.
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)
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.
‘Ultimately this increases the chance a chick will starve, and so we are seeing a reduction in the number of chicks they have each year.
‘If you’re a species trying to recover numbers you need more chicks each year, so any impact can snowball into a bigger effect.’
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.
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.’
A government spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The UK is a global leader when it comes to protecting our seas and we are working closely with partners, including the RSPB and the renewable energy sector, to identify ways to manage and mitigate the potential impacts of renewable energy sources.
‘We are proud of the protection our iconic seabird populations enjoy through our extensive network of Special Protection Areas and we are going further by developing a Seabird Conservation Strategy to mitigate the range of other pressures our seabirds are facing.’