Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Statement on Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

The Wildlife Trusts issued the following statement today:

Wednesday 10th June 2015

In response to the announcement that the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon has been granted planning consent, Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts said: ‘We support the Government’s targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to tackle climate change and increase the proportion of energy generated from renewable sources. Whilst renewable energy projects could be seen to be helping to tackle climate change, they are still developments with potentially adverse impacts on wildlife, a carbon footprint of their own and associated costs. It is important that all elements of the development stack up. Hence we strongly believe in ‘right technology, right place’.
The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon should be seen as a test case for a new type of development, in which there is still uncertainty about the environmental impacts, as much of the impact assessment work was based on modelling. Therefore we want to see the proposed mitigation strictly adhered to, and we believe that monitoring should be carried out over a number of years before any other lagoons are built. Swansea is a far smaller development than other tidal lagoons proposed in the Severn Estuary. The proposed lagoons at Cardiff, Newport and Bridgwater Bay are in areas that have multiple European conservation designations. Therefore any environmental impacts are likely to be on a far greater scale and we are concerned about plans to develop these lagoons, without first learning lessons from the development in Swansea Bay.
We still have strong concerns about where the rock to build the lagoon walls will come from, particularly the proposed source at Dean Quarry on the south Cornwall coast. Dean Quarry is in the Manacles Marine Conservation Zone where plans for a new breakwater and jetties (needed to transport the rock out by sea) could result in significant damage to the designated habitat features as well as having impacts on marine mammals. We welcome the decision by the Department for Communites and Local Government (DCLG) to withdraw the permitted development rights for the terrestrial development, calling on the need for a full Environmental Impact Assessment.’
The statement contains a lot of good sense and there are difficult balances to be struck, but I think it lacks acknowledgement of the climate change emergency we and the wildlife are facing.  Unless we cease to burn fossil carbon fuels in quick order there will be no marine mammals to conserve in the acid, anoxic ocean and 'designated habitat features' will become redundant in a warmer world.  Moving to a zero-carbon world as fast as physically, rather than politically, possible has to be the top priority for any organisation concerned with wildlife conservation.
Biff Vernon 10/06/2015

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