Lancaster University based business helps UK National Parks reduce their carbon footprints

Ullswater in The Lake District © Nick Lakin
The Lake District was the first national park to get a consumption-based greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint assessment

Small World Consulting conducted its first consumption-based greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint assessment of the Lake District National Park in 2010.

A further assessment in 2017 showed an estimated six per cent reduction in annual GHG emissions based on Small World Consulting recommendations, which included new woodland, restored peatland, renewable energy production and better agricultural management.

The assessment was then extended to the whole of Cumbria, and between 2021 and 2022, it branched out to all 15 National Parks and seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

The assessments created a full consumption footprint of lifestyles, goods and services, and included residents, industry, land use and management, and visitors - both in the area, and travelling to and from the area.

Dr Dmitry Yumashev, principal consultant leading portfolios of projects on landscape-level carbon assessments at Small World Consulting, said: “We have carried out consumption-based carbon footprint assessment for each National Park, which is different to government reporting for territorial (production) emissions and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the true scale of emissions.

“We also performed opportunity mapping for land use change in each of the landscapes and provided science-based pathways towards net zero or net negative emissions.”

Dmitry said that challenges in the work included the requirement of a very large number of datasets, complex science and methodologies underpinning many of the estimates, polarised stakeholder debates around many of the issues covered, and the associated challenges in communicating the results to various groups involved.

Some of the key aims of the project have been to help National Parks and AONBs actively contribute to meeting the UK’s 2050 Net Zero carbon emissions target, and to establish stronger links between the UK government and devolved administrations.

The project also allows for more landscapes – including local authorities – to be added to the assessment in the future with minimal effort because of the established methodology.

Dmitry added: “The National Parks are now using our assessments to make decisions for the next few years.

“The next step for us is to provide them with monitoring capabilities to track progress.

“We are also looking to provide them with additional land use opportunity mapping tools to help them roll out large landscape recovery programmes across the country.”

Mike Berners-Lee, director and principal consultant at Small World Consulting, said: “We were very pleased to be able to give all the National Parks a consistent approach to emissions assessments and targets, that is compatible with limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees and which is fully inclusive of land use as well as all emissions both directly and indirectly arising from residents, visitors and businesses.

“It provides a methodological template for any local area anywhere in the world.’

The 15 National Parks are The Broads, Dartmoor, Exmoor, The Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales in England, Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons), Pembrokeshire Coast, and Eryri (Snowdonia), in Wales, and The Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs in Scotland.

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