Q&A with our Net Zero with Nature Programme ManagerPUBLISHED ON: 4 OCTOBER 2021
Olivia McGregor is the New Forest National Park Authority’s Net Zero with Nature Programme Manager. Here she answers your questions about Net Zero in the New Forest
What does Net Zero mean for the New Forest? Net zero Green House Gas(GHG) emissions are achieved when the amount of GHGs emitted by human activities are equal to that being absorbed by the natural environment. In the New Forest, Net Zero means working with the communities that live, work and visit to reduce emissions as far as possible while maximising the opportunities the National Park’s natural environment offers to absorb emissions.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to climate change in the New Forest? Climate change is the greatest long-term challenge for the National Park. The impact of climate change on the New Forest is likely to be wide reaching, with warmer, wetter winters, hotter, drier summers, rising sea levels and an increasing frequency of extreme weather events, the effects of which are already being seen. This will have significant detrimental effects for our wildlife, local livelihoods and human health.
What headway has the New Forest made so far? Together with the family of UK National parks, we have created the large scale Net Zero with Nature Programme and announced a partnership with global impact firm Palladium to help secure resources towards the £240 million identified as being needed over the next 20 years. Our work on Net Zero with Nature was borne out of our climate and nature emergency declaration in 2020 and has encompassed a wide range of initiatives. These include reducing our emissions from day to day operations, promoting sustainable land management, raising awareness of renewable technologies and supporting community groups and businesses to make changes.
We are working with partners to develop a plan to respond to the climate and nature emergencies so that the New Forest National Park and surrounding area is ‘net zero with nature’ by 2050.
What role do you think the National Park has to play in the Green Recovery? Loss of natural habitat is a well-recognised driver of global pandemics since it forces animals to migrate and potentially contact other animals or people and share germs. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of nature for our health and wellbeing, as many people sought solace in nature to deal with the difficulties it has brought. I believe the National Park plays a fundamental role in a Green Recovery. It provides space to restore nature and habitats which is needed to help protect us from future pandemics. It also offers health and wellbeing benefits for people through enjoyment of its wonderful landscapes and the essential services it provides including clean air and clean water.
Tell us about your future plans when it comes to tackling climate change – ambitions and projects in the pipeline. Nature-based solutions offer huge potential as healthy functioning ecosystems take up and store a significant amount of carbon. About 29 per cent of all GHG emissions from human activities are absorbed by plants and soils in terrestrial ecosystems and 22% of GHG emissions from human activities are taken up by the ocean. Nature-based climate solutions offer the opportunity to both mitigate climate change and increase the park’s resilience by helping it adapt to climate change. As the National Park Authority we want to support our land-based businesses and communities by fostering land use practices that reduce carbon dioxide production and even store and sequester carbon dioxide. We want to protect and restore our peat soils within the park given the remarkable ability of peat to sequester carbon dioxide. We will be looking at opportunities to expand woodland cover too and foster natural woodland regeneration to ensure biological and genetic diversity which is key for long term climate resilience. We have made a commitment alongside local partners to make the New Forest National Park net zero by 2050 too and we will be working with them to promote sustainable travel, low carbon buildings and low carbon living.
Do you work with other National Parks on this challenge? Yes, we’re working with the family of national parks to build recognition of protected landscapes in the fight against climate change and come together to offer a package of nature-based solutions. We’re also working together and helping each other on our journeys to net zero.
Are the local community and visitors to the Park supportive of this work? Yes very much so. Back in February we hosted a New Forest Awakening Festival looking at the climate and nature emergency in the New Forest which so many people engaged with. The population of the new forest district is under 200,000 yet our messages were seen by over 815,000 people and nearly 70,000 people engaged with the online posts and events so the festival had wide appeal. A survey we conducted also showed overwhelming support (90%) for environmental improvements, brought about through lockdown, sustained in the longer term. We also convene the Green Halo Partnership which has brought together local organisations to focus on valuing nature and ensure it flourishes as an integral part of how we live and work in the region.
You can join Olivia on a walk on 5 November to hear about the amazing role the New Forest’s habitats play in tackling climate change and how they can help us collectively meet our climate targets.
The walk is part of the New Forest Walking and Cycling Festival which runs from 16 October to 7 November 2021.