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Climate threatening UK historic heritage: charity

London, Nov 20 (AFP) Nov 20, 2023
Climate change poses "the single biggest threat" to Britain's historic sites, buildings, coastlines, rivers and countryside, the country's main conservation charity said on Monday.

The National Trust said it was already experiencing first-hand the consequences of more frequent extreme weather events -- such as drought, heavy rain and wildfires -- on its properties.

"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," Patrick Begg, the natural resources director at the charity said.

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

Begg's comments come after the release of a report by the trust on Monday, setting out the work it is doing to adapt to the changing climate.

Some of its plans include working with landowners to slow the flow of water off hillsides by restoring peatland or planting trees, by re-meandering rivers to slow down flood peaks and by future-proofing its gardens to cope against changing weather patterns.

According to the report, 71 percent of the places the trust looks after could be at medium or high risk of climate hazards by 2060.

- Flagging up the risks -

"This is a serious obligation and we do not claim to have all the answers, Begg said.

"But we do know that adapting to changing climate is essential if the trust is to live up to its founding purpose."

The National Trust, which received 24 million visitors to its historic houses, gardens and estates in 2022, has also further developed its technology with a "hazard map" to help it pinpoint the risk to its places from climate change.

"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," Keith Jones, a consultant on climate change at the trust, said.

"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."

The trust, which has 250,000 hectares of land, 780 miles of coastline and 220 gardens and parks in its care, suggested the introduction of a climate resilience act to make climate change adaptation a legal requirement for public bodies.

The act, it said, 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.

Appointing a minister for climate adaptation in the Cabinet Office or Treasury would also be "pivotal", the trust said.


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