A NATIONAL park which has spearheaded the drive to reverse climate change must become a frontline in the national battle to stop an environmental catastrophe, a meeting has heard.

As members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority declared a ‘climate emergency’ to show solidarity with other public bodies, members heard it was in a prime position to show leadership as it was among the country’s most environmentally-friendly authorities, having already achieved its zero carbon target.

The meeting was told the park’s resources, such as upland areas with potential for peat restoration and tree planting, could also be used to make huge inroads to cutting emissions.

A meeting of the authority heard it had reduced its own greenhouse gas emissions by 62 per cent since 2005 and reduced its net emissions by over 130 per cent.

The reduction in emissions has been achieved through a wide range of measures, the biggest cuts being achieved through limiting oil and gas usage.

The authority’s director of conservation Gary Smith told members that it was clear climate change would impact on the park’s landscape and wildlife, while also hitting the local economy.

He said the authority was a low greenhouse gas producer, creating 0.2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year from its operations, while a typical district council produced 5,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

He said the park had huge potential for carbon storage and the authority’s work with the Yorkshire Peat Partnership, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and the Forestry Commission was “starting to have a very significant impact”.

Mr Smith said: “Globally the situation is dire, but locally there is a real consensus now about the need to be doing stuff over the next few years and there is an opportunity to work with local partners.”

The meeting was told with the authority having already removed 500,000kg of CO2 equivalent a year it was in a strong position to help inform and motivate others.

The authority’s member champion for recreation management, Nick Cotton, said the park could make “a  massive contribution” to the nation and highlighted how the Yorkshire Peat Partnership had worked with local landowners to restore natural drainage across 19,000 hectares of previously degraded peatland in the national park.

He said it had been estimated emissions from peat had been reduced by around 40,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, while The Dales Woodland Restoration Programme had supported the creation of almost 1,200 hectares of new native woodland since 2005, which had cut emissions by 6,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Mr Cotton said: “We shouldn’t be thinking about sweating the small stuff, such as giving people fleeces so we can turn the heating down, it all helps a little bit, but the massive contribution we can make in the national park is what we can do with our uplands areas with tree planting and peat restoration. We need to keep pushing at what appears to be an open door and to look at the way we can accelerate these things.”

The authority’s chairman Carl Lis suggested the authority could revisit schemes to generate hydro electricity as part of its climate change drive.

Members to create a fresh climate change plan in December.