Sunday, 29 March 2020

Residents starting to help tackle climate emergency

PLANTING trees, improving hedgerows and encouraging residents to create ponds in their gardens are some of the steps being explored to tackle the climate emergency in Watlington.

The Watlington Climate Action Group says these are all effective “carbon sinks” which would help capture CO2 from the atmosphere.

The group says it will produce a full strategy in the next few weeks.

Watlington Parish Council declared an emergency a year ago, saying it wanted to reduce its impact on the environment and review all its activities and policies accordingly.

Nicola Schafer, who co-chairs the action group with Kate Brown, said it had been focusing mainly on behaviour change, such as cutting emissions and reducing food waste and packaging.

“But it’s not just about putting less emissions into the atmosphere,” she said. “We have also got to take them out as well and that’s where the nature-based solutions come in.

“Around Watlington we have got lots of varied habitats which are precious so we have to be careful with what we plant and help to protect and enhance local biodiversity.

“Forty per cent of Watlington’s green space is gardens, which are a really important area. It is something we can directly impact really easily.”

Almost 50 people attended a meeting of the group on Thursday last week to find out how they could help make a difference.

The speakers were experts on different types of habitat, including National Trust ranger Matt Bond, who talked about chalk grassland and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Iain Naismith, from Watlington Environment Group, spoke about the town’s internationally rare chalk streams that support species including brown trout.

Nigel Adams, an international expert on hedgerows, explained how they provide wildlife corridors between habitats and are home to animals, including many bird species.

Stuart Mbabutt, a consultant who runs workshops on gardening, and Martin Gammie, a forestry consultant, spoke about planting the most suitable species of trees for different landscapes.

After the speakers, the visitors divided into five groups, each led by one of the experts, to come up with ideas to create a “carbon sink” that would help reduce the amount in the atmosphere.

Mrs Schafer said the group also wanted to protect and enhance biodiversity so that it was more resilient to “climate-related stress”.

She added: “This whole evening was a kick-off event to get an overview and start thinking about what we can do in Watlington to make a difference.

“Some of the early things we want to do is to encourage people to make ponds in their gardens. Another thing we could do is to improve the quality of hedgerows around Watlington because they are in a very bad condition. We would also be looking for good places to plant trees.”

Other measures suggested by the group include Watlington going plastic-free, a repair café, where people can takes items to be fixed, and a “library of things” where people can borrow useful items.

Other ideas are a website with information such as recycling points and businesses offering sustainable products.

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