Renewables in harmony with nature

BirdLife Europe is calling for “ambitious” and “binding” EU renewable energy targets for 2030. In its new report, ‘Meeting Europe’s Renewable Energy Targets in Harmony with Nature’, the conservation body says that renewable energy targets can be met without harming nature.

Renewable energy technologies do not harm bird populations, provided the most sensitive locations are avoided and established best practices in design and operation are maintained.

Meeting Europe’s Renewable Energy Targets in Harmony with Nature

Ariel Brunner, Head of EU Policy in BirdLife Europe says: “Climate change is a grave threat to both wildlife and people…….wind, wave and ocean power are essential and effective ways to cut carbon emissions, and do not need to put birds, bats or other wildlife in danger. Our report is essential reading for policy-makers across Europe as renewable energy moves to centre stage in the fight against dangerous climate change.”

Climate change poses an enormous threat to biodiversity all over the world and we need to develop renewable energy solutions quickly in order to cut carbon emissions and keep warming within safe limits. The report notes that “renewable energy must become the backbone of Europe’s energy supply”, but it also says that it must be developed sensitively. “The challenge we face is to protect nature whilst deploying renewables at the scale and pace required.” However, we need to develop the right solutions in the right locations to avoid negatively impacting on biodiversity.

With the effects of climate change already being felt and carbon emissions actually increasing last year, the need for new sustainable energy has never been greater. But we need to be careful that this renewables revolution doesn’t damage the very ecosystems it seeks to protect. With the launch of its new report, ‘Meeting Europe’s Renewable Energy Targets in Harmony with Nature’, in Brussels on 22 November, BirdLife Europe shows how we can meet our 2020 renewable energy targets without impacting on wildlife.

Meeting Europe’s Renewable Energy Targets in Harmony with Nature

BirdLife Europe supports achieving and going beyond Europe’s 2020 renewables target, in line with four key principles.

  • Renewable energy supply must make a significant difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Positive planning frameworks are needed so that the most appropriate energy sources are exploited in the most appropriate places.
  • Harm to birds and biodiversity must be avoided when locating and designing renewable energy facilities. Established survey, design and operation practices reduce or eliminate such risks.
  • Europe’s most important sites for wildlife must be protected. Where significant impacts on a Natura 2000 site (those protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives) are likely, development may only proceed under strict conditions, which must be robustly applied.

Harnessing the clean, renewable energy provided by the sun, wind, waves and tides is the only sustainable energy future for Europe. The renewables revolution can and must work in harmony with, and not against, nature.

BirdLife Europe/International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. Seventeen organisations participated in the making of the report, including BirdWatch Ireland and the UK’s RSPB.

Read the full report here: Meeting Europe’s Renewable Energy Targets in Harmony with Nature

Read summary report here: Meeting Europe’s Renewable Energy Targets in Harmony with Nature

Better Energy Homes Scheme – New Grant Amounts

The Better Energy Homes scheme temporarily closed for new applications following Budget 2012 and a subsequent announcement by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources reopened for new homeowner applications on December 8th 2011.

A number of scheme revisions have been agreed and the two key changes to the scheme are:

  • Revised grant amounts for all wall insulation types and Building Energy Rating (BER)
  • Internal and external wall insulation grants will no longer be one single amount, but rather be based upon the house type.

Grants for attic insulation and all heating system upgrades including solar remain unchanged.

A summary of the new grant levels, and how they relate to house type, is shown below:

A Building Energy Rating (BER) is an integral part of all grant applications under the Better Energy Homes scheme, whereby homeowners must undertake a BER on their home after grant aided works have been completed. A homeowner is entitled to BER funding of €50 once per home. This funding will be applied to your grant application automatically provided you have never applied previously for BER funding. You will be informed during the online grant application process if BER funding is available for your home or as part of your Letter of Grant Offer if you have applied through the post. It is advisable that you apply for and undertake all planned grant aided works at the same time to minimise the costs of multiple BER assessments.

Please note the minimum grant amount for the first application must be €400. A BER grant, where applicable, does not count towards the €400 minimum.

Further information on the Better Energy Home Scheme Grants can be found at

Dreaming of a Green, Green Christmas.

Christmas is a time of the year when lots of waste is generated and our energy consumption overall is greatly increased. It is a time for celebrations and with a little thought and imagination we can help reduce the environmental impact of the festive season.

Here are some Green Christmas tips that’ll help you to save money, reduce your Christmas carbon footprint and won’t cost the Earth!

Although plastic Christmas trees are reusable from year to year, real trees are the more sustainable choice. Plastic trees are made mostly of plastic and use up resources in both the manufacture and shipping. While artificial trees theoretically last forever, research shows that they are typically discarded when repeated use makes them less attractive. Discarded artificial trees are then sent to landfills, where their plastic content makes them last forever.

Live trees, on the other hand, are a renewable resource grown on tree farms, that are replanted regularly. They contribute to air quality while growing, and almost ninety percent are recycled into mulch. Live trees are usually locally grown and sold, saving both transportation costs and added air pollution.

Go to your local council’s website after Christmas for details on tree recycling and collection.

Visit your local garden centre and buy a live Irish grown tree in a large pot. This will allow you to reuse the tree for a few years without having to plant or re-pot the tree. If you have a spacious garden the tree can be planted out after Christmas where it can be enjoyed for many years and also help the environment.

LED Fairy Lights

We all like to decorate our Christmas trees and the exterior of the house with hundreds of those little twinkling lights and you don’t have to stop doing that to go green. However, you do need to replace those traditional Christmas lights from years past with the newest kid on the block – LED (light emitting diode) Christmas lights.

They use up to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent Christmas lights. Beyond the decrease in energy usage, these LED lights produce very little heat which significantly reduces the risk of fire and they last about 10 times longer than traditional lights (about 200,000 hours).

Look for locally made gifts – many gifts today come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation, the raw materials, manufacturing ethics, use of toxic chemicals etc contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local markets, craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation.

Local markets and Artisan Food Shops

Choose gifts made from recycled sources – many individuals and small businesses have developed great products using recycled materials. Supporting these businesses helps reduce the waste stream while promoting the concept of making best use of available materials.

Why not consider the gift of a tree for someone special this Christmas.  Planting a tree can be a very touching gift as it will last a lifetime.  Trees are also very beneficial for the environment and help set off our carbon footprint.

Alternatively you may know someone who would like to start growing their own vegetables but just don’t know where to start.  By growing vegetables in your own back yard, you directly reduce the demand for produce shipped from remote locations and thereby, reduce your own carbon footprint. So, whether they have a sunny windowsill, a small back garden or a few acres why not contact Greenside Up in Carlow and Aisling Designs in Wexford who, with their expertise  can point them in the right direction to realise their dream.

Just imagine going out into your own garden on Christmas morning to harvest your own organically grown vegetables that ‘taste’ like vegetables should!

Eco friendly gift wrapping

Remember to wrap your gifts in an eco-friendly way and try to avoid using foil or plastic wrapping, plastic ribbons and sellotape. Try wrapping your presents in brown or recycled paper,  recycled foil or newspaper, and using string or raffia (made from bark which regenerates) to tie it up.  Better still find inspiration from things lying around the house and get creative. Wrap presents with old maps, calendars, the comics section of newspaper, or children’s artwork. Once you start looking at material as potential gift wrapping aids, the possibilities are endless.

‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly…..’

Candles add a lovely festive touch to the home. Paraffin candles are made from petroleum residue and are not good for your health or for the environment. Only buy candles made from soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based wax are more eco-friendly because they biodegrade and are smoke-free.

‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly…’ Take a look around the garden and countryside and you will discover an abundance of natural materials to decotate your home.   Evergreens, berries, fruit, twigs, pine cones, holly, mistletoe, bark, and moss can all be used to create an amazing festive feel throughout your home.  Mantle pieces, door wreaths, centre pieces, swags, the list is endless, the list is endless and remember it won’t have cost the Earth!

Happy Christmas from Ferns

Sending Christmas cards to friends, family, neighbours and co-workers is a tradition in most Irish families. This year, try to buy cards that have been made from recycled paper or from sustainable forests or better still send an e-card where possible. The amount of cards sent every year places a huge demand on natural resources not to mention the transport emissions from moving these cards through the post!

Making homemade cards is a fun activity for the family. They may not be as professional as shop bought cards, but they are more personal and just as appreciated.

Instead of throwing the cards that you have received in the bin at the end of the season, recycle them or better still cut them up to make gift tags for next year’s presents.

Finally, buy cards from a charity that uses the funds to make a difference. Charity cards bought in major retailers do not raise a lot of cash for the charities whose names are on them. As little as 10 per cent of the sale price of some cards actually goes to the cause. If a card is bought directly from the charity, closer to 80 per cent of the total price goes to the charity.