National Parks hold the key to tackling climate change

  • Contributor information: CNP

June 2021

Campaign for National Parks has released a new ‘National Parks and the Climate Emergency’ report which explores the work underway to mitigate against and tackle climate change in National Parks and what more is needed. The report’s author, CNP’s Policy and Research Manager Ruth Bradshaw explains…

It sometimes seems that there’s a new report about how best to tackle the climate emergency practically every day at the moment. That’s not surprising given that there are international discussions taking place in 2021 which will be critical for agreeing the decisive action needed in the next few years. The UK as host of both the G7 Summit this month (June) and the UN Climate Change (COP26) talks in November has a particularly important role to play.

Our contribution to the climate debate

Climate change is a complex topic and this is a rapidly changing policy area so we’re certainly not claiming to have all the answers. But we wanted to make our own contribution to this crowded debate as we believe it’s essential that National Parks are at the forefront of combating climate breakdown. Our report looks at what’s already happening and sets out what needs to change to ensure that National Parks take a leading role in tackling this crucial issue.

Our research included conversations with members and officers from all the NPAs in England and Wales which has given us a good understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the Parks. At the time we were carrying out our interviews in early 2020 Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns and economic downturn were having a significant impact on NPA activity but it was striking just how much determination there was to ensure that longer term plans were not completely derailed by the need to deal with current public health crisis. The people we spoke to were keen to stress that the climate emergency remained a high priority.

Recommendations for government and NPAs

We learnt that there is a huge amount activity already underway but with additional, powers and resources NPAs could be doing a lot more. The amount of influence they can have is often limited by the current legislative and policy framework failing to place a sufficiently strong emphasis on emissions reduction. Our report provides further details on what’s currently preventing further action and we hope NPAs, the Welsh and Westminster Government and others will learn from this and take the actions needed to address these issues.

It is clear that significant changes are needed at both national and local level and the scale of change required in National Parks will have far-reaching implications. If it is to be delivered effectively, it is important that there is an opportunity for all those affected to agree the best course of action collectively.

New Nature, People and Climate Commissions

That’s why we’re calling for a special commission to bring together representatives from all those with an interest in National Parks – including landowners, residents, visitors and others – to consider the changes needed and how best to achieve them. We’d like to see this introduced in at least two Parks as soon as possible and if the idea proves successful it should then be rolled out to all of them so a clear strongly supported plan of action can be developed for each of the Parks. These commissions will take a little time to develop but as our report highlights there’s plenty of other positive changes that could be implemented in the meantime.

You can read the full ‘National Parks and the Climate Emergency’ report here.