Exmoor National Park Declares Climate Emergency
Exmoor National Park Authority Members this week declared a climate emergency and agreed to work towards being a carbon neutral Authority by 2030, subject to a detailed action plan now being drawn up.
Members also agreed to sign up to the Devon Climate Declaration, alongside 25 other organisations, and to join forces with both Devon and Somerset County Councils to produce carbon plans covering the National Park to meet or exceed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) targets.
The report to Members noted the 30% reduction in carbon emissions that Exmoor National Park Authority had already made since it started monitoring its carbon footprint across all its corporate assets in 2008. The measures taken include action to improve energy efficiency within Authority owned buildings and install renewable energy along with a scheme to facilitate installation of 73 new renewable energy systems in local communities, farms and houses across Exmoor.
The Authority has also taken steps to respond through management of its own estate, particularly the woodlands which are managed in-house, and collaboration with other foresters and land owners to support positive woodland planting and management.
Trees play a vital role in combatting climate change, acting not only as a carbon sink, but offering myriad other benefits, like habitat connectivity, biodiversity improvement, help with preventing soil erosion, and reducing flood risk. There are estimated to be in excess of 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide stored in Exmoor’s existing woodlands, plus another 1 million tonnes stored in hedgerow and free-standing trees, according to a 2013 study commissioned by the National Park Authority.
Active management of woodlands through the felling of carefully selected trees improves resilience towards tree diseases and climate change, while also improving the habitat for a variety of woodland species such as birds, butterflies and fungi. Directing more of the timber sustainably produced in this way towards end uses such timber framed buildings, quality furniture, flooring, doors and windows, including the distinctive signs, styles and gates found in the National Park, helps lock away a further 26,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, whilst the trees continue to grow sequestering more carbon.
In addition nearly 2,500 hectares of peatland in the National Park have so far been restored through the Exmoor Mires Partnership, with plans to extend this to at least 3,000 hectares.
Peatlands are the UK’s single most important terrestrial carbon store, containing 20 times more carbon than all UK forests. A functioning bog absorbs around 0.87 tons of carbon per hectare year on year. But dry peatland releases it, with degraded peat in England is emitting an estimated 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, making it even more urgent to restore this vital habitat.
As the planning authority for the area, significant further steps to address climate change are included in Exmoor National Park Authority’s Local Plan including:
- Measures that reduce the need for energy and promote renewable energy.
- Encouraging water conservation through sustainable and efficient supplies.
- Supporting the management of uplands and woodlands to assist in carbon sequestration and storage.
A detailed action plan will now be developed and presented back to Authority Members by early next year.
Robin Milton, Chair of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “It’s clear urgent action is needed if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change by keeping global warming below 1.5°C. Good progress is already being made to restore vital natural resources, including thousands of acres of precious peatlands, and to champion nature-friendly farming.
“But we cannot afford to let the declines in our natural world carry on and are continuing to work closely with Government, landowners, communities and our partners to ensure National Parks play their full part in addressing the climate emergency.”
Published: 3 October 2019
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