Last year the UK and the world saw unprecedented restrictions on movement, transportation, production and indeed liberty as we struggled to contain, and then minimise the impact of, coronavirus. Much fanfare was made as to the likely CO2 emissions that would result from these restrictions.
With this in mind, GLNP created and facilitated the Environment and Climate Action Group to guide and inform partners as to how some of the positives of lockdown could be systematised, prolonged and mainstreamed. Our work established a number of priorities, including transportation, food, the economy and the natural environment and work has been done in many of these areas. Indeed, it seems the world will never be the same again, and some of the changes that have been brought about have really positive impacts on the environment. None of this is to belittle the incredible hardship and loss faced by many.
An empty street in Cheltenham during lockdown 1
Initial evidence from BEIS shows 2020 carbon emissions were 8.9% lower than in 2019 - undoubtedly a big drop. But much of the world was essentially shut during that time - something that cant continue. This demonstrates that to achieve Net Zero, the changes we must make to our methods of production and ways of life are seismic and systemic. The arrival of a new Climate Coordinator for the county comes not a moment too soon, and all at GLNP look forward to working with them.
Another change witnessed, and investigate by Martha Kearney in Radio 4 production Reignite, was how nature and attitudes to it have changed over the last 12 months. The outlook here is somewhat brighter - with less visitor pressures in the more remote countryside, nature has been 'reclaiming its land'. And there is hope to be gleaned from how much people have reconnected with the natural world - bird song appeared louder, and walks in the countryside were more important. However, this must all be tempered with a recognition that visitor pressures on those 'on your doorstep' nature sites have increased dramatically, with positive impacts for people by negative impacts on wildlife in those local areas.
Much of this is acknowledged in GLNP's new strategy for 2021-24. We have a focus on the safeguarding of existing greenspace, and the creation of new greenspaces, both local and landscape-scale. We will continue to look at how the Gloucestershire Tree Strategy can be rolled out to deliver some natural solutions to climate change. And by looking at how we can support a sustainable agricultural transition we can encourage considerate access to the countryside, sequester carbon in soils, and farm harmoniously with nature.
The final strand of the GLNP Strategy provides a new focus, around engagement, community, education and young people. Putting nature at the heart of people, and people at the heart of nature is vital if we are to secure the long-term shift in awareness of environmental and ecological issues required for a naturally healthy future.