This week, the Landscape Institute declared a climate and biological diversity emergency. Kate Bailey CMLI, Chair of the LI’s Policy and Communications Committee, explains the Board of Trustees’s decision

    Bridget Joyce Square Community Rainpark demonstrates the value of landscape interventions in combating climate change. Image: 46 Photography / Robert Bray Associates / London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

    This week, the Landscape Institute (LI) was one of the first professional membership organisations to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. Our Board convened last week to discuss whether – and when – the LI should do this; our decision was that it was necessary to do so immediately.

    We are members of a multi-skilled profession that stands at the forefront of climate action. We are all concerned about the lives of future generations, about species extinctions, about deteriorating environmental quality. We try to make ethical choices to ensure that our work projects will benefit society and cause the least possible environmental harm.

    We are particularly talented when it comes to mending damaged habitats, degraded landscapes and neglected places. We are very good at reducing, re-using and recycling precious natural resources such as soils, biodegradable waste and water, by means of green infrastructure, water-sensitive urban design and sustainable drainage systems (SuDS). We are skilled at creating sheltering microclimates and healthy public spaces. We know to be selective when specifying paving, timber products, plants and trees. We search out sustainably sourced materials for our projects and we are becoming more knowledgeable about biosecurity. We are training ourselves to be digitally competent, using systems and data sources to better advise our clients and investors about the sustainability of our designs and management plans.

    But, though we can to some extent pat ourselves on the backs for our chosen direction of travel, as a profession we must not be complacent. We are being challenged by the younger generations about our inaction in the face of a predicted global temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius by 2030 (11 years and counting down). Members will be aware of the alarming findings of recent Inter-Governmental reports (IPCC and IPBES), which have made it very clear that governments and society must take immediate action to avert a global heating crisis that will trigger droughts, floods, extreme heat, poverty and famine, and potentially make many parts of the planet uninhabitable for future generations.

    The UK Government recently announced that it will bring forward legislation later this year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050. Some say this is not good enough; many towns and cities are setting targets of 2030 to achieve net zero emissions. The LI Board decided that, although we are not yet in a position to set specific targets for ourselves, we must declare an emergency now. The intention is to acknowledge the current crisis and to send a strong signal to other professions working in the built and natural environment that we will commit to a programme of realistic, tangible measures to address climate change and biodiversity loss within the next 5 years.

    The declaration identifies actions that the Institute and members are already taking, and others that we want to commit to. These include plans to measure the Institute’s current carbon ‘baseline’ in order to set a realistic target for the organisation to work towards year on year; proposals to embed learning around sustainability, resilience and climate adaptation into the LI’s CPD programmes, accredited courses and entry standards; and the provision of toolkits and technical guidance to improve professional practice in this area.

    However, though many members are pressing us to take emergency action, the LI Board knows that we can’t accelerate change all by ourselves, and we don’t want to make promises that we can’t keep. We need the whole membership to advise, support and share their knowledge with us to make this work.

    Over the next six months, the LI employee team on behalf of the LI is planning to engage with our members, registered practices and employers, experts in related fields, and partners in allied professions, to gain insight, advice and information to help deliver on our commitments. A report will inform the next strategic Advisory Council meeting in November.

    We will need your views about the Board’s climate and biodiversity declaration; what you are already doing and what you intend to do to become more sustainable in your working practices; ideas for what practical actions work and what actions make no difference; and suggestions for good practice examples of successful landscape schemes that directly address climate change.

    The LI also plans to set up an expert climate change panel to share expertise and knowledge that will guide and inform the major changes the profession commits to.

    The Institute is taking very seriously its responsibility to act in the public interest and to safeguard the landscape and the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations. But we need you to join with us: in promoting the value of landscape to address the effects of climate change, and in finding ways to make changes in our working lives that will reduce all our carbon emissions and bring benefits to society and the environment.

    If you wish to get involved and/or receive more information, please contact policy@landscapeinstitute.org.

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