Politicians, business leaders and celebrities have thrown their weight behind a National Trust campaign to galvanise people and tackle the climate and nature crises.
The conservation charity is calling on the public to seize the leap day by making one of a series of seemingly small but significant contributions that cumulatively will make a big difference.
Suggestions include planting or sponsoring a tree, cutting food waste and switching to greener forms of transport.
TV presenter Julia Bradbury, the boss of Iceland Foods Richard Walker and popstar turned farmer JB Gill are among those who have made commitments to tackle climate change and reverse the shocking decline in UK wildlife.
Politicians from across the political spectrum have also backed the campaign, including new Environment Secretary George Eustice, who promised to drive forward a national Nature Recovery Network.
The initiative has already been launched internally at the charity, with 30,000 staff and 65,000 volunteers expected to make thousands of promises.
By opening up the campaign to the general public, the charity hopes to kickstart a movement of change.
Pledgers are being encouraged to share their commitments via the National Trust’s website nationaltrust.org.uk/promise-for-nature, where they will be collected throughout the leap year, and on social media using #PromiseForNature.
Patrick Begg, Director of Natural Resources at the National Trust, said: “Tackling climate change can feel like an insurmountable challenge. We’ve become used to seeing images of melting polar ice caps and raging wildfires on our screens – and often it’s easy to feel helpless.
“But there are things we can do as individuals that collectively will have a huge impact. Simple measures like turning down our thermostat by 1C, not leaving mobile phones charging overnight and letting the grass grow, if done en masse, will make a genuine difference.
“There is real momentum in the UK right now for action on climate change. It’s up to all of us to keep that going. We want everyone to feel energised and that they can play a part – no matter how small.”
Among those making a promise for nature are TV presenter Julia Bradbury who said she would help children to access the outdoors; farmer JB Gill, formerly a member of boyband JLS, who pledged to plant a tree for each member of his family; and wildlife cameraman Simon King who committed to use less, live lighter and think before buying anything.
Managing Director of Iceland Richard Walker said: “The nation is waking up to the environmental crisis on our doorstep and we can all do more to help. I believe that supporting children to connect with the nature in their backyards will help to inspire the next generation of conservation activists, and today I’m pledging to find more ways to do this through Iceland’s presence in communities across the UK.”
Politicians of all parties also pledged to play their part, following a parliamentary event hosted by the Trust on Wednesday.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The National Trust campaign highlights how important it is that we work together to tackle climate change and nature loss. I will work to drive forward a national Nature Recovery Network, working as a shared endeavour with landowners and conservation groups, including the National Trust.
“This Network will create a bigger and better-connected set of places for nature that are rich in wildlife, more resilient to climate change and can support the recovery of our much-loved species, as well as providing environmental benefits such as carbon capture.”
Other politicians backing the campaign include Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard, Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
Leader of the Environment Agency Emma Howard Boyd, Natural England Chair Tony Juniper and the Forestry Commission’s Sir William Worsley have also made personal pledges in addition to their public roles.
Patrick Begg continued: “It’s encouraging to have the backing of so many politicians today – their individual promises are a welcome step towards a healthier natural environment. We now want to see these commitments translate into legislation, as small actions turn into bigger, bolder ones.”
Trust properties are holding events throughout the day to help people accomplish their promises for nature. Visitors can join a beach clean, plant a tree or build a home for wildlife at sites across the UK, while shoppers at the Arndale Centre in Manchester and Westfield Stratford are being invited to add their pledge to a ‘tree of promise’ installation.
Other promises suggested by the Trust include reducing food miles, waste and packaging, planting pollinator-friendly flowers and swapping to energy efficient light bulbs.
In January, the National Trust pledged to become carbon net zero by 2030, with a series of measures aimed at tackling the climate crisis, including planting 20 million trees, investing in renewables and restoring peatlands.
Director-General Hilary McGrady has personally promised to plant 125 trees this year, one for every year the Trust has been in existence.
Earlier this week the conservation charity, which is expected to welcome its six millionth member this year, launched a report revealing the vital link between engaging with nature and taking action to help it.