National Parks: For People, Nature and Climate
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It's been a critical year for National Parks. Not only have they welcomed record numbers of visitors - including first-time visitors - while trying to navigate a pandemic, they've been battling an even bigger crisis - climate change. The impact of climate change is felt deeply in our National Parks, from weather extremes to species decline. National Parks also hold the key to addressing the crisis.
In the run-up to COP26, we saw the spotlight shine more on the climate crisis and how to address this - with the UK National Parks confirming their commitment to achieving net zero by 2045 and both the Welsh and Westminster Governments unveiling their plans to achieve net zero.
Like the pandemic, the climate emergency is a global problem and we'd hoped to see world leaders agreeing tangible steps to do this in Glasgow, but the absence of key players significantly impacted that ambition. So, we turn our focus back to our home turf and consider what we can do here.
As outlined in our National Parks and the Climate Emergency report released in June, National Parks are doing what they can to boost nature recovery, reduce carbon emissions and create resilient landscapes for people, nature and climate. But they're being let down - especially in England - by a Government that does not put its money where its mouth is.
The Government must provide the right supporting framework to allow National Park Authorities to take effective climate action: including ensuring that policy decisions in relevant areas such as transport and planning are consistent with a move towards net zero. That is not currently the case as investment into road-building continues to outflank any investment in nature recovery.
We've joined forces with other NGOs to push for firmer action from Government - with Town and Country Planning Association, with Ramblers and with Wildlife and Countryside Link.
Our Documenting Climate Change in National Parks photography competition used powerful images depicting the impact of, and solutions to, climate change in National Parks in England and Wales and was picked up by media outlets around the world - from London and Plymouth to Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.
As we've continued to campaign for better protected, more accessible National Parks we've seen climate change move up the agenda. The New Forest National Park employed its first dedicated net zero lead and a new initiative is underway from National Parks UK to unleash private finance to propel nature recovery in National Parks.
But more is needed. We outlined a range of recommendations for both National Park Authorities and Government in our climate report and we will continue pushing to see these implemented. As COP26 wraps up, we must not let this momentum slow.
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