Passion, heritage & hydrogen- inside #COP23


Keith Jones_croppedAs #COP23 draws to a close, we caught up with Keith Jones, Environmental Practices Adviser at the National Trust and Fit for the Future board member, about his time at the conference




I attended COP23 in Bonn, Germany as a representative of the International National Trust organisation (INTO) and the National Trust in Wales. But I also attended as a concerned father. What was on my mind? How can we save future generations from picking up our bill for mismanaging the planet, and how can we better share with, and learn from, others?


Adaptation or mitigation?


As part of INTO, I was there to raise a voice about loss and damage to our heritage and culture caused by climate change. It’s too easy to gloss over these losses- both tangible and intangible- but once it’s gone it’s gone forever.


Since the Paris climate talks there has been a global focus on mitigating rather than adaptation, probably because mitigating can make money, whereas adaptation is perceived to cost.


Adaptation needs to be a big focus for our heritage places to ensure they can work with, and will not simply be destroyed by, the impacts of a changing climate.


Bonn voyage


Sustainable travel was big. Bonn had gone for EV, hybrid and hydrogen buses to get people to and from the conference. Every major manufacturer has supplied hydrogen and EV cars for delegates. If this is the very near future in terms of low-carbon cities, I can’t wait!


cop23 bus


WWF, fellow Fit for the Future members, hosted a Global EV side event. Roseanna Cunningham from Scottish Government was an inspiration speaker in terms of both intent and ambition. They’re aiming for a 100% EV Scotland by 2032.


‘The future is electric,’ said BMW’s Dr Becker. But it’s causing a conundrum for them in terms of business planning-  63% of all BMW’s sold in Norway are EV’s but only 1% in Italy. EV take-up will follow infrastructure, which just isn’t there in many places, particularly rurally. This is something Norway is currently working on, with 600 rapid charge points to be installed across the country.


Climate change and communities


Passion, deep belief, heritage, culture, religion and sense of place: at a side event with The Pacific Warriors of Tokelau, a small country in the Pacific, these came over more powerfully than I have ever heard before… from anyone!


pacific warriors


Tokelau has already gone 100% renewable energy but is also only 5m meters above sea level. Even a 1.5c increase will mean that many Pacific islands like this are doomed. I would like to get senior managers from most, if not all, of the organisations of the developed north along to a talk like this. Moving and powerful stuff.

And how do our own communities fit into this picture? We got going with an International National Trusts Organisation side event co-hosted with Eco Villages Network, Centre for Alternative Technology, Nordic Folk Centre and Open Team, looking at heritage, community and how we can respond locally and collectively to climate change.


Later in the week I spoke about the National Trust in Wales’s work on using renewable energy as mitigation at special heritage places, and how we share what we have learnt locally with communities and nationally through the Fit for the Futurenetwork.


Heritage has wisdom for the Future


An event on globally important agricultural heritage systems was a revelation for me. Professor Mauro Angoletti ‘s research revealed how we have so much to learn from previous generations to help future generations. His examples included historic terrace farming in Italy that is preventing land slides today, and the ancient 70,000Ha Hani rice terraces in China, one of the only sites to withstand the drought in 2016 (actually crops increased) where modern systems failed completely.


This to me was the evidence that heritage systems and cultural knowledge have a big part to play in tackling some of the changes we are facing. We just need to look at them afresh!


I have now completed my stint at COP, and have gained so much more than I gave. So many lessons have been learnt, and many of ours from National Trust Wales shared.


You can read more about Keith’s experiences at #COP23 & follow his environmental work with the National Trust Wales on the Going Green blog. Keith is one of the founders of Fit for the Future- read more about how an idea over a cup of coffee led to a thriving sustainability network.