National parks can become nationwide exemplars on taking responsibility to mitigate climate change, the chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales has said.
Members of the Dales National Park Authority are being recommended to declare a ‘climate emergency’ when they meet next week, and to commission a new plan of action.
Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post as the park authority hosted the opening day of the UK National Parks Conference at the Coniston Hotel near Skipton, park boss David Butterworth said the authority was already in carbon credit, having reduced its own emissions by 62 per cent since 2005.
Climate change was firmly on the agenda at yesterday’s event, with park chairman Carl Lis telling 100 delegates from all 15 of the UK’s National Parks, that the issue is their “greatest challenge”.
Mr Lis said it was among several challenges that parks must address with “enthusiasm, conviction and energy”, as he urged park leaders to continue working together to learn from each other.
According to Mr Butterworth, National Parks can help to further empower a “huge cultural shift in society” where people feel they make a difference to one of the defining global problems of the 21st century.
“I see a lot of National Parks and protected areas in other parts of Europe and I look at how they treat their National Parks in Austria, Norway, Sweden, and you always know you are in a National Park because you have very visual examples of fighting climate change,” he said.
“I’m talking about hydro (power) schemes, how buildings are designed, the way they function - the governments in those countries have decided that one of the responsibilities of National Parks should be able to interpret and ‘sell’ what the general public need to do back in their homes in the fight against climate change, and I would quite like to see the Dales changing in that way.”
Calling for supportive government policy to unlock the further potential of National Parks to tackle climate change, Mr Butterworth added: “What we can offer to the country is the stuff that you need to do to mitigate climate change - tree planting, hydro schemes, peatland restoration - the opportunities within the Dales, I would say, are greater than other area of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Lis said he believed that was a vision that the public would identify with, saying: “The general public are in line with our thinking. You only have to look at recycling figures from district councils.”
The capacity of National Parks to contribute to attempts to avoid climate breakdown are “huge”, according to Margaret Paren, who chairs National Parks England and the South Downs National Park Authority.
Ms Paren explained that she believed National Park authorities are uniquely placed to effectively target where to plant new woodland and restore peatlands and river catchments for maximum benefit.