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United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Striking back

Friends of the Earth and environmental campaigner Jonathan Porritt joined forces with the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) last month to launch a new publicity campaign for wind. The BWEA initiative is to counter the misinformation put out by anti-wind farm groups, and to improve on the poor rate of planning successes for wind. Since January 1995, 77% of all wind farm applications in the UK have been rejected.

Introducing the campaign at a press conference in London, the BWEA's Ian Mays admitted the industry had not projected itself forcefully enough. "This has meant that many inaccuracies about wind energy have gone largely unchecked and, in the process, have gained a degree of false credibility." People like wind farms, he insisted. Public attitude surveys consistently show 70-80% in favour. "However, to focus the debate on subjective aesthetics is missing the point. The real danger is from global warming and the depletion of fossil fuels." Charles Secrett of Friends of the Earth agreed. The government must rise to the challenge of climate change, he said. "It means strategically planning for a considerable expansion and development of Britain's wind and renewables industry."

The wind energy debate has been profoundly affected by misinformation dribbled into it by organisations like Country Guardian, claimed Jonathan Porritt. Small groups are targeting people's uncertainties, their ignorance and their fears. "Much of the information being put out is ill-informed, narrow minded, emotional rubbish. Unfortunately it drops into very receptive minds and is rapidly taken up by local pressure groups as a justification for their own quite legitimate concerns. Sustainability is not a game to be played with in some dislocated way," he concluded.

The BWEA's campaign began with a flurry of national and local radio coverage. Press interest on the day was disappointing with only one national newspaper turning up for the launch. The BWEA's Hugh Babington Smith reports that there has been follow-up interest from local press. The initiative is being funded by a group of the association's largest corporate members calling themselves the Amersham Group. Made up of developers and manufacturers the group takes its name from the town in Buckinghamshire where it regularly meets.

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