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National Trust in Northern Ireland launches bid to become carbon neutral

View from the Trust site at Divis
Gary McDonald Business Editor

CONSERVATION charity the National Trust in Northern Ireland, as part of year-long campaign to connect people with nature during its 125th anniversary year, has outlined a number of commitments to support its plan to become net zero carbon neutral by 2030.

It includes planting 125,000 trees over the next 10 years; 890 hectares of priority habitat under restoration by 2025 and managing 40 hectares of wild flower meadow (equivalent to 80 football pitches) by the end of this year.

Locking up carbon by planting trees, more investment in renewable energy and reducing the Trust’s carbon footprint are among the measures being taken to hit the net zero target.

Plans to open up green spaces near urban areas, a year-long campaign to inspire people to engage with nature and address a ‘worrying disconnect’, as well as new plans for culture and heritage programmes are now under way.

National Trust's regional director Heather McLachlan said: “As Northern Ireland’s biggest conservation charity, with more than 100,000 members here, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to fight climate change, which poses the biggest threat to the places, nature and collections we care for.

“People need nature now more than ever. If they connect with it then they look after it. And working together is the only way we can reverse the decline in wildlife and the challenges we face due to climate change.

“The natural environment and walking through woodland provides a range of benefits from increased mental well-being and physical health to higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction to services such as improving air quality, outdoor recreation and access to wildlife.

“Our urban sites often offer a special setting for tranquillity. and the findings from The Value of Nature in Belfast report, an assessment by NI Environment, link revealed these places also offer multiple financial benefits to society.

“In 2018, Minnowburn, on the edge of Belfast, provided £2.7million of public goods and services, 66 times the cost to the Trust of maintaining the site which was £41,000. Over the next 50 years it is estimated that the site will provide net benefits to society worth over £89 million.

“But the most significant benefit identified was its contribution to people’s health and wellbeing, estimated to have delivered annual savings of over £1.8 million to the NHS.”

A number of projects are currently under way including a path restoration project at Slieve Donard; reinstating 10.5km of historical pathways at Crom in Fermanagh and the opening of the final section of the seven-mile boundary walk at Mount Stewart Demesne.

The Trust also hopes to establish a green corridor in Belfast, making nature more accessible by connecting the city to the Belfast Hills, and the charity is also launching a year-long campaign Everyone Needs Nature that seeks to inspire and connect people with the local natural environment to help address the nature crisis.

MsMcLachlan added: “Everyone needs nature and nature needs everyone. We have made our commitments, and we also call on government to create new laws for nature and an ambitious Nature Recovery Network to help wildlife and people thrive throughout Northern Ireland. I urge everyone to become part of our great environmental movement.”

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