Richard Leafe: Climate Change in the Lake District

The Lake District National Park is currently experiencing the early affects of climate change such as pressure on arctic alpine plants and rare fish. Windermere, for example, has warmed 1.8 degrees in the past 10 years. The catastrophic floods of November 2009 illustrate what we might need to get used to and better prepared for.

We are adopting an approach based on a Carbon Budget for all our climate change work in the National Park. We have estimated our overall budget to be in the region of 2.3 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent per year. Our aim is to reduce this by 1%per year, in line with national targets. Big areas of consumption are visitors flying to the park, residents and visitors car use and food, drink and accommodation of the 15 million annual visitors. The 1% reduction target remains very challenging with all the current known initiatives and plans getting us 40% of the way there under the most optimistic of outlooks.

Renewable energy uptake in the Park is one important element of this and here we do stand a chance of becoming carbon neutral for the energy the park’s communities need if we continue the adoption of micro renewable technology especially hydro and wood fuel. Equally we need to exploit wind, solar and waste from tourism and farm businesses but at a micro level so not to threaten the integrity of the landscape. FITs have proved pivotal in the businesses cases for these technologies especially at the community level and should be continued until the momentum behind this transformation is fully embedded.

The Landscape itself is a vast store of carbon, estimated at 22 million tonnes for the Lake District National Park. Understanding this and converting it from a net emitter to a net absorber of carbon is our aim. This will require a subtle change in direction for land management in the park, with an emphasis on the ‘ecosystem services’ delivered by land management and less on using the land for the primary purpose of food production. The two can co-exist but the broader benefits to society of carbon storage and flood risk mitigation needs greater prominence.

Finally, nuclear growth on the west coast of Cumbria has the potential to threaten the landscape and visitor appeal of the west of the National Park. It’s vital that the two proposed new nuclear power stations and Braystones and Kirksanton remain off the list of potential sites. The latter’s exposed coastal location on a currently unprotected coast within metres of National Park boundary, make it particularly unsuitable given it’s vulnerability to coastal change and tidal surges, not to mention it’s impacts on nature conservation and landscape assets. We are looking to facilitate the development of new nuclear facilities at Sellafield where the industry makes an important contribution to sustainable development of the west Cumbrian communities. That said making a grid connection in a manner that does not detract from the high value landscape will be a challenge and not one that should be determined by cost alone.


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