RSPB accused of aiding 'greenwashing' after £385,000 bung despite burning of 1.5t of deep peat a day
The need for urgent and profound action to prevent a climate catastrophe has never been more important.
That does not mean however that the people and organisations who claim to be leading that action should not be challenged and carefully scrutinised, for virtue signalling is not the same as being virtuous.
COP27 this week has seen no end of carpetbaggers and snake oil salesmen pretending to be holier than thou. This was was the basis of the UN Chief's comments: 'UN chief calls for zero tolerance on firms 'greenwashing' net zero'.
The UK media is full of organisations and companies using 'net zero' for a toxic mixture of fundraising and financial gain, and merrily scapegoating people they don't like, dismissing anyone who points out that they are profiting as climate change deniers.
But these tactics, intended, as they are, to prevent balanced debate, must not be allowed to prevent proper assessment and evaluation of the practical and pragmatic measures we need to take to improve things. Incendiary rhetoric, victim blaming and old fashioned greed must not triumph, or we all lose.
The last few days have produced a series of revealing insights into how the RSPB uses the concerns about the climate to increase its power and wealth.
First, the news that this once respected charity has launched another campaign to get people to report moorland fires, so that it can, presumably, get some free BBC TV air time claiming that burning little bits of vegetation growing on peat soils is both destroying the planet and evidence of industrial scale criminality.
We can assume this because it is a repeat of what they did last year. That exercise resulted in the claim that some 600 small fires were destroying peat and the planet, and evidence of a massive criminal conspiracy. This is of course far from reality.
Their own photographs showed the peat beneath the burnt vegetation was intact. The total CO2 emitted they refer to is not the tiny amount released by these small fires, (which together would be dwarfed the CO2 from the average bonfire night in a couple of UK cities), but the total estimated to be released by all the damaged peatland in the UK.
That is an entirely different thing and they know it. After all, a significant part of it is made up of releases from their own land, where they have been repeatedly subject to far more damaging wildfires, that do burn into the peat.
But what about the profoundly damaging assertion that these little fires were part of an industrial scale conspiracy to subvert the legislation on burning on 'deep peat' (over 40 cm deep). Here we come to the next recent discovery. We now learn, that at great cost to the taxpayer, Natural England has had to investigate these claims.
They have decided only one estate even needed writing to and that was to point out that the peat depth varies so frequently on that land, above and below 40cm, that it would be good to burn more smaller bits. Gross illegality, no. Conspiracy, no. Industrial scale, no.
But how does all this fit into the statement by the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres? Well, that is the really surprising part. This week we discovered the third part of the puzzle.
We can assume, if we can draw any conclusion from the RSPB's behaviour in the foregoing examples, that they are concerned about deep peat. Actually very, very concerned. So concerned, that they have been rendered almost apoplectic with rage about burning tiny bits of vegetation on peat, even when a child could see that the peat itself was not burnt.
So concerned, that they have decided that, if grouse moor owners do not stop burning on any peatland, even within the law of the land or when the depth of the peat is below 40 cm, they will seek to have grouse shooting banned. So that is clear. RSPB will tolerate nothing that damages deep peat.
But this week, the week of the UN Secretary General's attack on greenwashing, we read, that a major distillery company has entered into a partnership with a conservation organisation, that is intended to allow the company to continue to dig up deep peat, dry it out and burn it, in return for 'conservation of the equivalent amount of peat used' by them at their distilleries.
Some distilleries are known to burn up to 1.5 tons of peat day.
Note that it says conservation, it does not say creation. Peat accumulates very slowly. It may have taken ten thousand years for the minimum depth of deep peat to accumulate. That's 4cm every thousand years or one CM every 250-years.
A good spade full of deep peat will have taken more than a thousand years to accumulate, so conserving the peat, which is all the conservation organisation has signed up to do, is completely and utterly different from replacing it.
Is this not greenwashing? But we might be wrong, if the area that is being conserved is sufficiently vast, say the whole of Sutherland or the North of England, the maths might be better than we think. So how big is the area that the conservation organisation is going to conserve? Well, it is not quite that big. It's 160 hectares. The size of a good farm.
With luck, it might accumulate enough peat every year to fill the back of a pick up truck. Yet the existence of this deal with the deep peat burner could well allow them to burn more peat in a week than this 160 hectares could accumulate in a generation.
It is obvious what the distiller gets out of this, the freedom to carry on damaging peat. But what does the conservation organisation get? The answer is a simple as it is shocking, £385,000.
You may have guessed by now that the conservation organisation that has taken £385,000 to facilitate the continued combustion of deep peat is the RSPB.
That's the RSPB that becomes hysterical at small cool burns affecting only vegetation and carried out within the law.
That's the RSPB that has an annual operating surplus, what you might call a profit, of £14,000,000. Why do they need the money to conserve 160 hectares of their own land? Land that they surely should have been conserving with their own money, God knows they've got enough of it.
So there you have a perfect circle. We start with the RSPB's launch of another attack on decent people who are actually successfully conserving deep peat by spending millions of private money each year on this, and then we discover that RSPB's identical attack last year was, as we predicted, completely unfounded. Then it is revealed that RSPB is taking £385,000 to greenwash a peat burning scheme, and finally, no less a figure than the UN Secretary General calls for zero tolerance of green washing. You could not make it up. Shameless or what?