World Leaders: Please Act for the Peak District National Park


I’ve done some fascinating things this week; we’ve made some important decisions; and I’ve faced some big challenges. But all of this pales into insignificance compared to the challenges faced by World leaders in Copenhagen in a few (8) days time. So, I’m going to focus this Blog on why success at ‘COP15’ the World summit on Climate Change matters to the Peak District.

NASA's recent photo (from their website) highlighting how fragile the Earth's Atmosphere is.

First of all, what is at stake at COP15 – the 15th Meeting of the United Nations ‘Conference of the Parties’ relating to the global agreement on Climate Change. I don’t claim to be an expert on this, but the Government’s Climate Change website sets this out clearly in its ‘Road to Copenhagen’ document. Details at: www.actoncopenhagen.decc.gov.uk/en/

Support the Government's Act On Copenhagen Campaign

Basically, success at Copenhagen would be the last chance to reduce the total increase in World temperatures to no more than 2°C, which is itself a scary rise in temperatures. Global emissions would peak by 2020 and drop back to 50% of 1990 levels by 2050. The UK aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

We’ve looked at what climate change might mean for the Peak District, drawing on the UK Climate Impact Projections and our Climate Change Action Plan sets out what we plan to do as a National Park. My ’10 reasons’ below draws on some of the information in our plan, from the Moors for the Future project and other work.
See our Climate Change Action Plan, advice on planning and grants and our own Environmental Management Report at www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/index/looking-after/climatechange.htm

The climate change scenarios show the difference between impacts in the Peak District with a ‘low’ scenario, that is below what Copenhagen attempts to achieve, and a ‘high’ scenario, which is what would happen in the worst scenarios if Copenhagen fails. All the scenarios would, to different degrees, lead to hotter and drier mean summer temperatures; warmer and wetter mean winter temperatures; more intense weather events such as storms and heavy rain.

The predicted impacts on summer temperatures of 'low' climate change scenarios (top) and 'high' scenarios (bottom)

This is my personal list of the reasons why World leaders must act.

 

Reason1: The cleanest rivers in England are under threat from higher summer temperatures, leading to more weed growth, lower oxygen levels and reduced summer flows. Our limestone rivers and wetlands are of international importance: they support important plants and invertebrate populations, important populations of dipper, grey wagtail, water vole and crayfish. These rivers have been fished for over 400 years and are the basis of a large angling industry today.

The River Dove at Wolfscote Dale

Reason 2: Making hay and silage – conservation of vital fodder for winter months – will become increasingly difficult on the thin soils of the White Peak plateau if our summers become hotter and drier. Peak District farming is a low Carbon way of producing protein for a hungry World. Over 250 000 head of stock are reared on the Peak District hills and sold through Bakewell market every year. There is a growing commitment from visitors, residents and the local catering industry to support this, with hugely successful farmers markets and a sound, low carbon distribution chain emerging.

Haymaking is part of the ecology and economy of the Peak District and is emblematic of the sustainability of our farming

Reason 3: If we let our moors dry up, the carbon that will be lost from them pollutes our water and adds further to the emissions of CO2 , so making climate change worse. Over 1/3 of the Peak District is our fantastic, globally important peat moors. These moors hold vital water and carbon and they are the basis for the water, farming and fieldsports industries. They are great places to walk and for wildlife. Hotter drier summers will make it more difficult to sustain these wetland environments because they rely on cold, wet and anaerobic (where there is no oxygen) conditions to survive.

Pristine moorland retains carbon, eroding moorland releases this into the atmosphere Picture courtesy of Moors for the Future

Reason4: Politicians should not fear to set CO2 emission limits, because our communities are already planning to live within them. Peak District communities are at the forefront of learning to live with less carbon. Schools, villages halls, landed estates, businesses and public bodies are pioneering energy conservation, micro-renewables and low carbon economic models. The Sustainable Development Fund has helped nearly 100 projects, from small wind turbines, to community water turbines and to studies into anaerobic digestion and water power. The National Park Authority’s own Carbon footprint has been slashed by 12.6% in 2 years and we plan to go further and quicker.

Communities, such as Ilam in the Peak District are working out how they can make the transition from high Carbon to low Carbon communities. Picture courtesy of PDNPA

Reason5: Birds such as golden plover, dunlin and red grouse are vulnerable to warmer, drier summers. If they cannot feed in the damp mosses and moors of the uplands, then they cannot survive in the Peak District. The Peak District uplands are home to some of the most southerly populations of upland species, plants and animals whose main populations are further north in the tundra, moors and forests of Scotland, Scandinavia and the Arctic.

Golden plover: the bird which, for many, is the sound of summer on the Peak District moors is under threat from climate change. Picture courtesy of PDNPA

Reason 6: Hotter drier summers will make the threat of moorland fires and their severity much greater. Our Moorlands have been under threat from wildfires and fires caused by people for centuries, but in recent years this has got worse. Our Fires Operations Group is an excellent example of cooperation between National Park Rangers, fire services and the moorland landowners and, during dry spells in the summer, their preparedness and efforts much reduce the severity of fires. In Victoria, Australia which experiences a different scale of threat from fires (270 people were killed in one day in February this year) Parks Victoria has increased its spending on fire control from 10 to 30% in the last 5 years. Can we afford to make the same commitment as our moors become drier in summer and the fire season extends each year?

Through great partnership working and good planning, the Fires Operations Group is effective today, but what happens when long hot summers are the norm? Picture courtesy PDNPA

Reason 7: There is the potential to develop a low carbon visitor economy and we are making real progress towards this. Currently most of our visitors come by car, although of course historically the train was an important way in which urban people have accessed the National Park. But, there is a growing demand for more sustainable ways of accessing the Peak District. Research for our Recreation Strategy identified a huge latent demand for better public transport and, especially, opportunities for people to cycle into their favourite parts of the Peak District. On Friday, members agreed to a £2.25M investment that will provide cycle access for up to 500 000 people. I firmly believe this will not be the last action that will open up truly sustainable ways of accessing the National Park.

Ashbourne Tunnel: the reopening of 4 more tunnels will open up major areas of the National Park to cyclists ensuring more sustainable visits

Reason 8: One consequence of climate change will be more intense and severe rain storms and flooding in neighbouring cities. We have seen the British record for rainfall broken with terrible consequences in Cumbria this last week. In 2007, the intense rainfall in the Upper Don and Rother catchments led to flooding in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. In 2000 Derby was flooded. Whilst we are working with the Environment Agency to restore moorlands in our pioneering Making Space for Water project, severe climate change will make this an insurmountable problem .

Sheffield, photographed from the National Park boundary sign. Energy efficiency is a must. Climate change may intensify flood events for major urban areas

Reason 9: Climate Change will lead to enormous stresses on the historic environment.  English Heritage and the National Trust have catalogued the damage hotter and drier summers and more intense weather will have on historic buildings. The further spread of arable farming could lead to valuable field systems and artefacts being damaged. Our heritage shows the way with principles for building design that allow maximum energy efficiency and design that benefits from natural light.

We can learn from traditional building design, built when energy was costly. Picture courtesy of PDNPA

Reason 10: Upland Areas such as the Peak District have enormous potential to contribute to energy generation in a more sustainable way, using farm waste, timber and fibre, wind and water power and the power of the earth itself. There has, from the Government, been a singular focus on wind energy and I can see the need for large offshore and some onshore wind farms and the scope for many more modest wind turbines in the Peak District. But there is even more potential for ground source heat pumps – many of our buildings, businesses, farms and communities have access to the land that is needed for these and also for water power. Early in 2010, Friends of the Peak District will be launching a major new study supported by our Sustainable Development Fund into the potential for Peak District rivers to contribute energy and we have already seen pioneering projects develop in Alport and New Mills.

Many Ground Source Heat Pumps have been installed across the National Park, in farms, village halls, schools and businesses

So, Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Wen Jiabao and all the others.  Act for the Peak District National Park, all of the World’s other protected areas and us all.  

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9 thoughts on “World Leaders: Please Act for the Peak District National Park

  1. A well researched and highly informative article. Yes, climate changes and global warming can be devastating to the earth. What is dangerous for U.K is applicable for the whole world. It’s time we united to save our planet.

  2. A few points about why ground source heat pumps alone are not the silver bullet to solve climate change. They have an efficency of up to 400% ie for every unit of electrical energy used to power the system you get 3 to 4 units of heat back out. However for every 3 to 4 units of energy in the form of coal burnt in a power station we only get 1 unit of electical energy delivered to our homes due to the losses involved in converting heat energy to electrical energy and transporting it through the national grid. In my view this makes ground source heat pumps currently seem rather a waste of time.

    It is equally efficent to use a modern gas boiler to heat your home. This is because a modern gas boiler converts the potential heat energy in gas into heat for your home at over 90% efficency, this is similar to the overall efficency of burning coal in a power station, converting it to electricity, and then using that electricity to power a ground source heat pump to heat your home.

    This problem can be solved if the electricity used to power the ground source heat pump comes from a renewable source. Maximum efficency is reached if the electrical energy does not have to travel long distances through the national grid. This makes local renewable energy generation combined with technology such as ground source heat pumps the direction we should be moving in.

    However I hear that yet again a planning application for a small wind turbine on Holestone moor near Ashover has been turned down. At some point we need to have some joined up thinking and leadership regards climate change and not just cherry pick certain “eco” technologies and ideas such as ground source heat pumps without looking at the bigger picture. They may score politial brownie points but do very little to solve the problem.

  3. What’s up, I recently started reading your blog – thanks for the good work. Just wanted to let you know that it’s not showing up properly on the BlackBerry Browser (I have a Pearl). Either way, I’m now subscribed to the RSS feed on my PC, so thank you!

  4. Hello, I commented roughly 1 year previous saying that I was not able to read your articles properly. I am not certain if you edited your site but I can now read it properly, thanks. I’m using a Blackberry Tour.

  5. Jim

    Congratulations, a very well written post. I used to work for the Cabinet Office we could have done with you helping Ministers write policy we all understood… that’s the good bit.

    I have a small rare breeds farm in the Peak District, we love it. We have treasured the location, improved it, brought employment and made big (well big to us) local investments.

    I do not have mains electricity (or mains anything come to think of it, apart from the telephone). I generate my own electricity from a diesel generator – very environmentally friendly…not. As part of our programme to reduce our carbon footprint we have: improved the insulation, purchased high efficiency generators and inverters, improved windows etc.. All this has reduced the need for the generator to be on by about a third.

    We live in a valley, nearest neighbour is about 1k away, only four properties can see us across the river, and being in a valley boy does the wind blow. Ideal for a small domestic wind turbine, nestled up the hillside, camouflaged against the hill, no roads or paths etc. Yet our ability to get this through planning has been derided by planners – offering me ground source heat when I need electricity is a bit daft. I could reduce the need for a generator by over 75% with a small wind turbine.

    So I fear you talk a good story, you probably believe some of this but your ability to execute policy in your own organisation is non existent.

    The sad reality is the Peak Park is slowly being destroyed by climate change, and officials think they can act as King canute making us look like it was in the 18th century and that this will stop the inevitable destruction of what we treasure.

    I will apply once more, and I will appeal as I know it will be rejected even though we have taken on board all of your advice, but we know the Peak Park is so set in its ways its ability to adapt to the new threats is not in its make-up.

    John Suffolk

    • John
      Thanks for the compliments. I spent several years writing submissions for Ministers in Defra mainly.

      I’m very interested in your case and have asked John Lomas our Director of Planning to look into your case. You might like to call him on 01629 816200 to discuss your case before you resubmit.

      Jim

  6. Hi!
    It looks as though we both have a passion for the same thing.
    Your blog, “World Leaders: Please Act for the Peak District National Park | Jim Dixon’s Blog” and mine are very similar.
    Have you ever thought about authoring a guest write-up for a related blog?
    It will definitely help gain exposure to your
    blog (my website receives a lot of traffic). If you might be interested, e-mail me.
    Appreciate it

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