This week, three stories illustrate the continued work that the RSPB is doing to stop the rot, protect the best and restore the rest. All these projects have been done in partnership and are the result of years of planning, expertise and dedication.
First, we reported that the RSPB had used its first loan of £710,000 from Triodos Bank to install renewable energy technology (solar panels and a biomass boiler) on eight of our nature reserves. This complements existing projects such as the wind turbine at our Headquarters and will contribute to our ongoing programme to reduce our own carbon footprint. As a contribution to the major societal necessity to decarbonise the economy, we plan to generate at least 50% of the energy we consume using renewable energy technology on our own estate by 2020 and ultimately we want to become a carbon neutral organisation. Not only does this save us money on our energy bills, but it can also provide us with income by selling energy back to the grid. The loan was the first output from our Conservation Investment programme that seeks to find new ways to secure finance to deliver our objectives. I hope to be able to report more projects which have benefited from innovative finance very soon.
Solar panels at RSPB Arne
Second, we were delighted that Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced that the M4 relief road on the Gwent Levels would be scrapped thereby removing the threat to the Gwent Levels SSSI. Given that the Welsh Government had declared an ecological and climate emergency last month, this decision makes perfect sense. Yet, this was a hard-fought victory which, as so often happens will casework battles, was won thanks to a strong NGO partnership including the Gwent Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Earth. Having secured continued protection of one of our finest wildlife sites, I hope that attention and resources will now shift to improved management of SSSIs and restoration of lost biodiversity in Wales.
Third, an important milestone was reached this week when we reported the first significantly significant Asian vulture population recoveries from Nepal. This relates directly to the actions that the SAVE partnership has been making to alleviate the threat from diclofenac and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which are using in livestock but sadly are toxic to vultures that feed off the carcasses. This news has huge significance in our attempts to create Vulture Safe Zones and phase out the use of drugs that are harmful to vultures. It also provides a massive boost to all those that have been involved in our vulture recovery programme over the past two decades. From our experience in the UK and around the world, we know that recovering threatened species can take time, but we also know that by diagnosing the reason for decline and testing solutions it is possible to make things better and secure sustainable populations.
White-rumped and slender-billed vulture populations have both responded positively (photo Chris Bowden/RSPB)
I look forward to reporting more good news next week.
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