Turning The Process On It’s Head

Landscape Institute hosts Climate Emergency Conference


Held last week, the Landscape Institute’s ‘Mitigating the Climate and Biodiversity Emergencies’ conference was delivered virtually over three days.

The conference debated a number of important themes and discussed imperative actions, exemplar practice, core skills and thought leadership around mitigating the climate emergency. Delegates heard from a range of established speakers on the topic, and there was also the opportunity to contribute to the debate by connecting and networking with people from across the landscaping profession and wider, associated fields.

On Day One, Anthony Dewar, Professional Head Buildings and Architecture, Network Rail, together with Matt Winfield, England Director at Sustrans and Selina Mason, Director of Masterplanning, Lendlease debated “what are the contradictions for landscape designers when designing for Net Zero?”

In attendance at this discussion, we were interested to hear from the contributing parties that the main barriers to adopting more biodiverse, nature-based solutions can be summarised as follows:

  • the resource, time and cost involved with maintenance;
  • understanding who owns what piece of land and managing multiple stakeholders;
  • the transitory nature of land use, particularly in areas involving infrastructure as that can regularly change;
  • the safety culture that is becoming more stringent, meaning there are more rules to prevent maintenance around transport routes etc.

The first day also included an interactive panel discussion “4 months post COP26 – UK Built Environment Declares”, whereby delegates were able to ask questions and discuss how the sector can collaborate to mitigate the climate and biodiversity emergency with Julia Barfield, British architect and Director of Marks Barfield Architects, Paul Morris, Civil Engineer, Civic Engineers and Andrew Grant, Founder & Director, Grant Associates.

Day Two featured key industry players and international speakers including Professor Mary Creagh, Cranfield School of Management and Jing Fan, Deputy Chief Engineer, Senior Engineer at the Guangzhou Urban Planning & Design Survey Research Institute. The day provided an international perspective on designing sustainable futures, showcasing how China is attempting to reduce carbon emissions through their work.

Lord Debden, (Chairman of the Climate Change Committee) opened Day Three of the event with a speech outlining work being carried out by the Climate Change Committee and what this means for the landscape sector.

The final day of the event was also the Wildflower Turf Ltd live session, and we were thrilled to be joined by 63 delegates.

Our three guests for the session were Tim White (Tim O’Hare Associates), Penny Anderson (retired ecologist), and Dr Trevor Dines (Consultant Botanist) and our session was titled; ‘Mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss through habitat from the ground up’.

The premise of our CPD workshop was to acknowledge that the lure of new technological advances or macro scale green infrastructure innovations takes attention away from the important building blocks, sometimes on a micro scale, upon which we can build ways to protect our planet. We firmly believe that we very much need to remember to look down, not up, when we think about what changes we can make to improve our landscape management for the greater good. Turning the process on its head (literally), we asked the question of our session participants, “How can protecting our soils, and the species-rich habitats they create, help mitigate climate change and address our biodiversity emergency?”

With the assistance of our esteemed panel of experts, delegates delved into the following:

  • How the soil beneath our feet provides a big key to helping mitigate climate change and with careful management can reverse the biodiversity decline we are facing.

  • How carbon sequestration differs by soil and habitat type and how this can positively influence landscape design and planting choices.

  • How managing, or renovating, the species-rich habitats we already have can go a long way to improving UK biodiversity nationwide.

The CPD workshop session was facilitated by our Managing Director, James Hewetson-Brown, and the conversation was lively with an excellent level of engagement and many interesting and topical questions were asked.

The session was also recorded and can be accessed via the LI Campus site here. It’s very much worth a listen!

As well as our own session, the Wildflower Turf Ltd team also managed the time to attend some of the other very interesting sessions on offer over the course of the conference and we found the content to be very pertinent and interesting. Understandably, the conference attracted a great range of contributors; not just landscape architects, but representatives from a much wider range of related industries such as transport, housing development, engineers, research institutes, and aggregate manufacturers. This diversity resulted in a rich perspective, with enhanced insight into potential design considerations.

We will leave you with a very pertinent quote that was used as part of the “Microclimate planting” session that occurred on Day One of the conference. Featuring Ed Ikin, Director of Wakehurst, RBG Kew, the session covered changes in planting habits as our climate changes and the importance of protecting our soils.

“Essentially, all life depends upon the soil … There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.”

Charles E. Kellogg, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1938.