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National Trust calls for climate change adaptation to be made legal requirement

In a report, the trust said it is already experiencing first-hand the consequences of more frequent extreme weather events.

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A National Trust sign in the Peak District

The National Trust has called on the Government to introduce a climate resilience act to make climate change adaptation a legal requirement for public bodies.

In a new report, the trust said it is already experiencing first-hand the consequences of more frequent extreme weather events – such as drought, heavy rain and wildfires – on its properties.

The charity, which cares for 250,000 hectares of land, 780 miles of coastline and 220 gardens and parks, said approximately 71% of the places it looks after could be at medium or high risk of climate hazards by 2060.

It said the act could create national targets for climate change adaptation while imposing a statutory duty on public bodies to make adaptation a key factor in decision-making.

Holnicote river flood plain
A bird’s-eye view of hundreds of logs placed on the newly formed flood plain at the River Aller on the National Trust Holnicote Estate, Exmoor, Somerset, where the first attempt at scale to create a more natural, diverse and resilient wetland and landscape in the UK will help tackle impacts of climate change such as flooding and drought (PA)

The trust said appointing a minister for climate adaptation in the Cabinet Office or Treasury would also be “pivotal”.

Patrick Begg, outdoors and natural resources director at the trust, said climate change presents “the single biggest threat” to the charity’s mission.

“It demands our urgent and unswerving attention, and we call on our partners and on governments across the UK to stand with us and to do more to confront the challenges we all face,” he said.

“Our responsibility spans hundreds of historic sites, buildings and some of the nation’s most-loved coastlines, rivers and countryside.

“These places are our national heritage and are treasured by people here in the UK and much further afield; last year we received 24 million visitors to our historic houses, gardens and estates.

“This is a serious obligation and we do not claim to have all the answers. But we do know that adapting to changing climate is essential if the trust is to live up to its founding purpose.”

The charity has also further developed its hazard map desktop tool to pinpoint the risk to its places from climate change.

Keith Jones, senior national consultant on climate change at the trust, said: “The hazard map flags the risk so that we can discuss with property teams what they are seeing in real terms, such as flooding, wildfire or overheating.

“By doing an ‘on-the-ground’ reality check with property teams, which essentially explores their experiences and detailed site knowledge, we can then assess the reality of these risks – whether they are great or small – and prepare accordingly.”

A Government spokesperson said the UK was the first country to legislate for net zero.

“In February, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero was created to ensure climate change remains a key focus across Government,” the spokesperson said.

“Our third National Adaptation Programme sets out a robust five-year plan to strengthen infrastructure, promote a greener economy, and safeguard food production in the face of the climate challenges we face.”

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