20 Sep 2008

Greens add weight to call for alternatives to barrage

There is a new campaign group launched this week - 'Stop the Barrage NOW' - over the last weeks I have talked with them about endorsing their project - not always easy when you don't know a new group - however after much discussion and asking many questions, at a recent Green party meeting, we decided to send the statement below - and today I issued a press release - see here.

Photo: River Severn

Some following this issue will have seen that the National Trust, RSPB and WWF, in a 10 strong coalition with other groups, have recently come out strongly against the Severn Barrage, which they claim would be ‘economically dubious and ecologically disastrous’. A report they commissioned from consultants Frontier Economics, says that ‘the cycle of the tides in the Severn means that a barrage would not necessarily provide electricity at peak times’. The group says that 5m tonnes of CO2 will be emitted during construction and 5m tonnes from transport of the materials, and the barrage would destroy nearly 86,486 acres of highly protected wetlands across the estuary. And the real cost could be much higher than the widely quoted £15bn. ‘This does not take into account costs of land acquisition in Cardiff and Weston or the creation of new wildlife habitats to compensate for the lost land.’

Report author Matthew Bell says: '...even using the most conservative estimates of costs, the barrage is one of the most expensive options for clean energy generation there is’. They see tidal current turbines as a longer term option. The Frontier Economics report is various places on the web - go to RSPB link here. I hope it gets the coverage and attention it deserves.

Minister rattled by RSPB

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has been letting off steam about opposition to the Severn Barrage by groups like the RSPB - he said: ‘It is the duty of a sensible NGO supported by the public that occasionally they say yes to projects and (are) not always seeking the comfort zone of saying no to a barrage, no to a windfarm, no to this, no to that’. He said the RSPB was ‘clearly not understanding that unless we are prepared to take some courageous action on climate change the devastation of species will be truly enormous’.

The RSPB responded ‘Mr Wicks is ignoring the difficult issue facing the government over the cost of the Severn Barrage- the energy it produces can be produced at half the cost by other renewable technologies. Why should we spend £15bn, at least, on a barrage when the same amount of renewable energy could be produced at half the cost? Does Mr Wicks think that wasting £7.5bn is good government policy?’

Green party statement

The Green party recognised long before other political parties the very serious threat posed by climate change. Alongside that Greens have pointed to the increasingly urgent need to ensure energy security. We have been pushing in Europe and here in Britain for a massive programme of energy conservation, alongside a whole range of renewable energy options.

In March 2007 the Green party voted, at their Spring Conference in Swansea, in favour of developing renewable energies in the Severn Estuary, but rejected a barrage. It was strongly argued that there already exists cheaper, more practical, flexible and environmentally less damaging options. It is heartening to see this policy is also endorsed by many other groups like the National Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, WWF-UK and the Salmon & Trout Association.

There are also now reports from the Government's Sustainable Development Commission and Frontier Economics, which have shown that this massively expensive and hugely damaging proposal cannot be justified on economic grounds - there are simply too many cheaper options for clean energy generation.

We need urgent action now to tackle climate change; the barrage is a dangerous red herring. Let us instead see immediate and massive investment in energy conservation measures and a whole range of other renewable energies. We support the 'Stop the Barrage NOW' campaign in ensuring that alternatives to the barrage are properly considered and more economic and environmentally sustainable options are developed as a matter or great urgency.

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