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UK Landscape Architects Declare Climate & Biodiversity Emergency

The twin crises of climate heating and mass biodiversity loss are the most serious issues of our time. Infrastructure, buildings and construction play a major part, accounting for nearly 40% of energy related carbon dioxide (CO²) emissions but climate heating is only one of the drivers accelerating global biodiversity loss and dramatic rise in extinctions. Changes in land and sea use, exploitation of organisms, pollution, invasive alien species and erosion of precious soils compound the crisis.

While we have seen major improvements to practice over the last 20 years, meeting the needs of our society without breaching the earth’s ecological boundaries will demand a paradigm shift. Together with our clients and collaborating consultants, we will need to commission, plan and design landscapes, cities, infrastructures and buildings as indivisible components of a larger, constantly regenerating and self-sustaining system in balance with the natural world.

As we increasingly become urban dwellers, investment in city development must also consider wider global landscapes and ecosystems as fundamentally interrelated parts of the city. Nature based solutions will form the basis of our response.

The research and technology exist for us to begin that transformation now, but what has been lacking is collective will. Recognising this, we are committing to strengthen our working practices to create landscape architecture and urbanism outcomes that have a more positive impact on the world around us and which conserve and enhance the natural and built environment.

We will seek to:

  • Raise awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for practical action amongst our clients and supply chains.
  • Advocate for faster change in our profession towards resilient and regenerative design practices and a higher Governmental funding priority to support this.
  • Establish climate and biodiversity mitigation, adaptation and resilience principles as the key measure of our industry’s success: demonstrated through awards, prizes and listings.
  • Share knowledge and research to that end on an open source basis.
  • Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.
  • Preserve and protect existing irreplaceable landscapes and habitats whilst protecting and optimising areas of functional and biodiverse landscape in all developments.
  • Adopt a whole systems approach to landscape design recognising that soils, bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi are key factors for ecosystem survival and carbon sequestration.
  • Work to provide assessment tools for life cycle costing, carbon usage, biodiversity gains. Develop and promote post occupancy tools and measures to assist in the management of landscapes.
  • In addition to working with mitigation, adaptation and resilience as primary tools, look to using regenerative design principles in the design of landscapes.
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, contractors and clients to further reduce construction waste.
  • Promote low embodied carbon, and look to maximise carbon sequestering, responsible and sustainable use of water and biodiversity net gains in all projects.
  • Minimise wasteful use of resources in landscape architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.

Founding signatories:

Churchman Thornhill Finch, Dan Pearson Studio, Gillespies, Grant Associates, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, J & L Gibbons, Kim Wilkie, Kinnear Landscape Architects, Landscape Projects, LUC, LDA Design, Nigel Dunnett, Studio Engleback, Townshend Landscape Architects

We hope that all UK landscape architecture practices will join us in making this commitment.

If you are not a landscape architect, or are based outside the UK, please visit our global hub here