Working together to tackle climate change

Published: 03 February 2020

Last update: 03 February 2020

Blog post
This blog post is written by Patrick Begg , Outdoors and Natural Resources Director Patrick Begg Outdoors and Natural Resources Director
Visitors on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Dorset

Challenges in caring for places we love, and the changes in how we do so, have been brought about by the climate emergency. We need to come up with new ways to cope with the impacts, which will affect not only wildlife and areas of natural beauty, but buildings and collections too. Patrick Begg, our Outdoors and Natural Resources Director, takes a look at future plans for tackling climate change.

On 9 January, National Trust Director-General, Hilary McGrady spoke about her vision of why the National Trust matters in our 125th year. At its heart is an ambition for us to lead in tackling climate change, the biggest threat to the places we love.

This isn't just about the land, nature and wildlife side of our work. I've seen first-hand what climate change is doing to our buildings, collections and gardens; how it intensifies the challenges of looking after them and making them accessible for everyone to enjoy. Adapting to the changes we are already experiencing is going to be a major piece of work; some issues will be hugely challenging, others will provide opportunities for us to innovate and inspire. For example, many of the plants in our gardens will not be suited to hotter and drier temperatures. So planting schemes will need to change, but often in exciting and unexpected ways.

Sunlight glancing through the trunks of trees at Ennerdale, Cumbria.
Sunlight glancing through the trunks of trees at Ennerdale, Cumbria.
Sunlight glancing through the trunks of trees at Ennerdale, Cumbria.

Creating more space for nature to thrive

Our new aim to create an additional 18,000 hectares of woodland by 2030 (around 20 million more trees) isn't just about their critical role in sucking up and storing damaging greenhouse gasses; it's as much about getting more people involved in restoring nature and making more space for wildlife. There's genuine joy to be had by being involved first hand in rebuilding our woodlands.

We also can't shy away from the need to repurpose some National Trust farmland. Farming is still a vital component of our landscapes, and where it is the right choice on National Trust land it will continue but become even more nature- and climate-friendly. We want all our land to be delivering the most it can for nature, carbon and people.

Farmers will need support to make these changes: that means from us as well as government and farming peers. So we'll be making much more effort to showcase what we are up to by testing and exploring new low-carbon methods of producing food which also help restore and look after nature. 

We've already committed to dispose of any investments in fossil fuel companies over the next two years. Now we’re working with new, specialist advisers to work out whether and how, by 2030, the total carbon impact of all our investments can be net zero – without reducing the returns that help fund our conservation work.

Highland cattle at East Soar, South Devon
Highland cattle at East Soar, South Devon
Highland cattle at East Soar, South Devon

Join us and make a difference

It's really the places in our care that give us the power to make a difference. Climate change is happening now, and people who help look after these places are already doing huge amounts to adapt to its effects. The often dramatic impacts affecting the landscapes, buildings and collections we love are the most compelling reasons for urgent action to protect our planet.

This month we'll ask you to join us and make a personal pledge as part of our 2020 ‘Leap for Nature’ for the good of our environment. We can't wait for governments, global leaders, or multinational companies to fix it for us – it will take individuals taking even small steps to make the biggest difference.