Some of the nation’s largest landowners make unprecedented pact to jointly tackle the climate and nature crises

Press release
Killerton, Exeter floodplain work
Published : 29 Nov 2021 Last update : 02 Dec 2021

The National Trust has brought together some of England’s largest landowners and managers together to sign up to a range of commitments to help the government meet its net zero ambitions and reverse environmental damage.

Among those who have signed up include the RSPB, the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Church Commissioners for England, the Duchy of Cornwall, National Parks England, Soil Association, The Wildlife Trusts and Woodland Trust.

The organisations have vowed to work together to ensure that our natural resources like peat bogs, woodlands and rivers are used as effectively as possible to tackle the climate crisis.

The deal was agreed following a one-day summit at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in October, which was attended by Defra Climate Adaptation minister Jo Churchill.

Some of the ways land can be used responsibly to tackle climate change include a focus on creating more woodland, restoring and protecting peatlands to capture carbon, reconnecting rivers and preventing flooding as well as the management of coastal erosion. 

Participants have also sent a letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice which states their own practical commitments as responsible stewards on how they plan to tackle climate change. 

The six climate and nature-based solutions that organisations have signed up to include:

1. Take meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change to ensure a net gain in carbon sequestration.

2. Create or restore homes for wildlife that support nature’s recovery and provide long term biodiversity increases

3. Be designed, implemented and managed in consultation with local communities, taking into account past, present and future landscape character

4. Facilitate opportunities to deliver benefits for people at a local and a national level, such as access to nature and green job generation

5. Consider the location, ecology and surrounding landscape to ensure multiple benefits, such as carbon sequestration and flood management.

6. Be future-proofed and adaptively managed so they are climate resilient for generations to come.

National Trust Director General Hilary McGrady said: “While by no means perfect, we saw recently at COP26 what can be achieved when parties work together. Healing climate harm is something we are all united in and only by pulling together, sharing our expertise and experience will we have any chance at tackling all its effects. 

“This demonstrates what can be done at ground level to tackle the climate change threat, restore nature, and ensure the future health and wellbeing of the landscapes we all love.

“The UK’s Climate Change Committee is clear that ‘a transformation in the use of land’ is needed if we are to meet our Net Zero target. Those who have signed up to these principles have the power to lead that transformation. Only by working together will be able to lock up enough carbon in the English countryside to meet the government’s ambition for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and prepare our cherished landscapes and nature for the worsening impacts of climate change. 

“The National Trust is working with and for nature by committing to large-scale habitat restoration, a major tree-planting programme and an ambitious net zero target.”  

John Weir, Head of Real Estate at the Church Commissioners, said:

“The two pillars that underpin our approach to responsible investment are respect for people and respect for the planet. The devastating impact climate change is having on both humanity and the natural environment is clear for all to see, and this requires the private and third sectors working closely with government to create a world that is greener, healthier and safer.

“As an organisation with significant land holdings, we have the potential to leverage our natural assets to deliver positive social and environmental outcomes while still fulfilling our fiduciary duties for the Church.

“This pact brings together some of England’s biggest landowners and we look forward to working alongside the National Trust and other landowners in meeting the ambitious targets we have all agreed to set ourselves.”

Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s chief executive said “Nature can play an important role not only in limiting the impact of climate change on our lives but also in capturing and storing carbon and helping to reduce our emissions. Restoring our environment and the wildlife that lives there delivers a double whammy of tackling the climate and nature crises together. 

“At RSPB reserves such as Haweswater in the Lakes and Dove Stone in the Peaks we are showing what is possible; bringing nature back whilst locking in carbon.” 

Andrew McCloy, Chair of National Parks England and Peak District NPA said: “National Parks sit at the heart of the nation’s nature recovery network and are central to achieving UK targets for Net Zero Carbon and biodiversity. We are already seeing the impact of the climate emergency across our National Parks and have been working hard to achieve significant change at pace and scale through our nature recovery projects and partnerships. 

“The Net Zero with Nature strategy defines the role that the National Parks will play in the UK's fight against climate change and the biodiversity crisis and solidifies our commitment to working across boundaries to create real change, fast. We are developing collaborative partnerships with landowners, businesses, charities, funding bodies, local and national Governments.

“The nature-based solutions Compact will help continue this work to support land managers to tackle the climate emergency for the benefit of all.”

Philip Hygate, Chair, National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: “The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty represents the UK’s 46 AONBs, which cover around 15% of the UK land area. 

“We are proud to be signatories to this pact and part of a wider movement dedicated to taking action to tackle the twin threats of climate change and nature depletion. AONB teams have restored peatland double the size of Birmingham in the past ten years and are now instrumental in delivering the Great North Bog across five counties.”