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Climate action vs. wildlife conservation - An unnecessary conflict
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With this editorial, the editor or editor-in-chief of the magazine new energy - epaper initiates the current issue 5/2018. Here you can find out which articles are especially readable or where the suggestions came from.

Wind power is not the enemy

In its latest special report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change insists on the need to keep global warming below 1.5C. This will require ambitious climate targets and a rapid expansion of renewable energy (page 10). Meanwhile, wind farms are time and again blamed for countless bird deaths. It is an emotionally charged issue that attracts huge media attention, which naturally plays into the hands of the opponents of wind power. In numerous European countries, wildlife protection has become one of the primary reasons for the rejection of planned wind farms - even though clean energy is among the most important ways of slowing anthropogenic global warming. This controversy is the focus of our current cover story (page 22). The situation is simple enough. Once a permit has been issued, approval authorities would rather not have to deal with the case a second time. If approval is granted for a wind farm that is the object of local protests, there is a high probability that the decision will be challenged in the courts. Wildlife conservation in particular offers a variety of ways to thwart wind projects.

Ultimately, this is due to a lack of scientific research and clear legal provisions. There are no objective criteria by which to determine whether a new wind farm represents a significantly increased risk for protected species, causing considerable uncertainty within authorities. Particularly in Germany, the result is that project developers are required to carry out increasingly expensive and time-consuming impact assessments, with no assurance whatsoever as to whether the project will ultimately be approved.

At the heart of the matter is the question of whether turbines pose a heightened risk of collision to individual animals, and whether that risk justifies refusing permission for a wind farm to be built. If an entire species were under threat, then a refusal might be defensible. But such a claim cannot be substantiated. There is broad disagreement among experts over the number of deaths turbines cause. Accordingly, many decisions are based on blanket assumptions that are immune to legal challenges because of the discretionary powers enjoyed by approval authorities. Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary in the German environment ministry, advises wind planners to secure local acceptance as early as possible - but is this enough to deter staunch opponents of wind energy?

Wildlife protection is vital. But it must not be allowed to derail climate action, which in the long run is the most effective way of protecting endangered species. If global temperatures continue to rise, half of all animals and plants on Earth could face extinction. Accordingly, legislators must ensure that authorities and the wind industry have clear and legally binding rules to work with. Only then will the system no longer be open to abuse.

Meanwhile, the urgency of a redoubled commitment to climate action is highlighted not least by appeals from the United Nations. In the wake of the preparatory conference for the forthcoming COP24 summit in Katowice, UN Secretary General António Guterres declared that “what we still lack - even after the Paris agreement - is leadership and the ambition to do what is needed” (page 13). If we remain on our current path, there will be every reason to fear for the survival of many of our planet’s species.

Best wishes, Jörg-Rainer Zimmermann Editor-in-chief
With this editorial, the editor or editor-in-chief of the magazine new energy - epaper initiates the current issue 5/2018. Here you can find out which articles are especially readable or where the suggestions came from. …
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issue 5/2018 of 17.10.2018
Next issue 1/2019 on 22.02.2019
Published 2-monthly , 5 issues per year
Language English
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Category Economical Magazines & Political Magazines

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