Reflections on COP26 from South Pennines Park

Climate change cannot be tackled by one person, organisation or government body. This fight connects us all – and it must be a people-led approach.

World leaders attended the COP26 summit in Glasgow between 31 October – 12 November 2021 to discuss the transition to sustainable and resilient eco-systems, and how we can protect and restore our precious habitats.

South Pennines Park hopes the summit will spark meaningful actions and innovative blueprints for communities to take ownership of their environment to drive positive change.

Helen Noble, Chief Executive of South Pennines Park, said: “Our environment is the beating heart of everything we do. It spans all industries, departments and communities. The environment affects all aspects of daily life – from protecting our homes against floods and wildfires, to boosting health, nutrition and employment opportunities.

“Communities need to understand their part, know they have a voice, and work together to influence positive collaborative change. It’s about developing a mosaic of landscapes, both protected and undesignated, that are accessible to everyone.

“People always want to know what’s in it for them. Well, small energy saving measures saves you money over time and saves the environment. Switching your lighting to low energy bulbs will save you money, a renewable source energy will result in you paying less for your energy and reducing your carbon footprint will provide you with a healthier workforce.”

South Pennines Park connects the dots between key stakeholders across the park area. This approach maximises expertise, reduces competition for finite funding, and creates a cross-county partnership approach.

By linking local authorities, water and energy companies, environmental organisations and charities together, the organisation strives to create positive environmental, social and economic change across the park’s 460 square miles.

With hectares of beautiful, wild uplands, South Pennines Park is working to utilise natural carbon and quality water storage. Tree planting, dam building and nature-based flood prevention schemes are other green investing measures that will also protect thousands of homes, businesses, and community resources.

We need to make the connection between nature-based solutions and the economy, to landscapes and people. The relationship between the urban and the uplands is key, and the uplands deserves the funding and investment to protect it.

Helen added: “We’ve got to stop putting environmental issues into silos and work together. It’s not about the private sector doing one thing and the public sector doing another. It’s about working together. It’s about making a business case to invest in the environment because it will give the return.

Projects being explored by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) are looking at 20-minute neighbourhoods. This is about creating places in which most of people’s daily needs can be met within a short walk or cycle. The benefits are huge – people become more active, improving their mental and physical health; traffic is reduced, and air quality improved; local shops and businesses thrive; and people see more of their neighbours, strengthening community bonds.

Helen added: “The news around climate change can be overwhelming but we have a valuable opportunity to look at how we can embed looking after the environment into everyday life, across all industries and sectors of society.
“We are only custodians of this planet, and it is up to us to protect the planet for future generations. Small changes can make a huge difference. It doesn’t have to cost the Earth, but it could save the Earth.”

View from Old Town at Hebden Bridge – Rebecca Yorke
Rawtenstall Town – South Pennines Park
Pule Hill – Louise Brown