Tackling the Climate Emergency: Mitigation, Adaptation and Biodiversity
In September last year, staff members of ACD took part in a two-day CPD covering the vital and pressing issues of our time – the climate and ecological emergencies, and to hear what we can do as landscape professionals, in our work and personal lives, to tackle them.
Due to the online nature of the event, this allowed for a more diverse and international range of great speakers, including those from Uganda, Belgium, Thailand, and Malaysia. The take home message was:
“there is much to learn and do but we are running out of time, so let’s get cracking!”
These were some of the highlights:
The first speaker was a youth climate activist from Fridays for a Future in Uganda, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, who was a climate refugee. She reminded us of the impacts extreme weather events linked to global heating are already having on the global south. Poignantly she said she thinks ‘do I need to switch on the light in the morning to match my stockings or is the morning light through the window enough?’. It was moving to hear how careful she is not to waste energy, when her carbon footprint must be a tiny fraction of ours.
Africa is responsible for only 4% of global emissions and yet is on the front line of intensifying climate systems. Hilda said, one solution is to have a price on carbon (such as a carbon tax and dividend). Changes such as this would reduce everyone’s carbon footprint regardless of whether they care. She finished with a call to action:
‘It’s about your children and those who will come after you. We have the solutions, lets implement them. Our action today will determine the lives we will lead tomorrow.’
Next to speak was Ignace Schops, a Belgian environmentalist. He is director of a Belgian NGO, Regional Landschap Kempen en Maasland (RLKM), president of the largest network on protection of wild landscapes the ‘EUROPARC federation’.
Ignace said, we are losing our comfort zone and went on to quote facts and figures outlining the crises. He talked about how it was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year, and in that 50 years the global population has doubled. Flights are up by 561%, meat consumption has increased by 65%, plastic consumption by 447%, and extreme weather events have increased by 44%. He pointed out that only 10% of the world’s population (including us), are responsible for 50% of emissions.
Ignace also said, the future is ‘glocal’ (thinking globally, living locally). He said we need local action for global problems. Solutions will be different in different countries, with the UN’s ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ providing an outline for action. We need to go from ego to eco, realising we are part of the planet not above it.
Scott McAuley, of the Anthropocene Architecture School spoke on the subject ‘How to respond to climate change through design’. Scott is seeking to address the knowledge gap amongst architects about the climate and ecological emergency with a climate literacy project. He said, a net zero world will be completely different. If we keep emitting at the current rate we will have used our carbon budget (to stay below 2 degrees average global temperature rise) by 2030.
Scott also talked about climate justice – that the richest 10% are responsible for 50% of emissions. He went on to talk about resilience, how we need to be able to absorb coming disturbances and shocks. Within the Holocene (the period of relatively stable climate which began approximately 11700 years ago after the last ice age and within which human civilizations have flourished), concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide have never risen above 300 parts per million. We have now reached 420 ppm and some people are calling this a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. The Met Office says that with this increased carbon in the atmosphere, everything intensifies. Scott mentioned the hydrological cycle, which is also amplifying.
Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, kick started the second day. She is a cross bench peer in the House of Lords, chair of the Carbon Trust, and member of the Committee on Climate Change, the UK’s independent statutory body established under the Climate Change Act of 2008.
Julia told us how nature cannot adapt at the rate of temperature increase we are seeing (0.6˚- 0.7˚ per year). She told us how the aim to reach net zero before 2050 is to try to keep the global temperature increase below 2˚C, with the potential of keeping it below 1.5˚C. She said, with current policies the world is heading for closer to 3˚C, and if the policies are not implemented it will be closer to 4˚C by the end of the century. The UK has now seen an increase of 1.1˚C.
Julia also said, that as well as mitigating climate change (reducing emissions from fossil fuels and land use changes to try to prevent the worse of climate change), we must adapt (even if we could keep global average temperature rises to below 1.5˚C.)
This conference was just one of many efforts the Landscape Institute is making after declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency in 2019. So much was covered over the two days, we all learnt a lot. Much of it very practical about changes we need to make in our practices as landscape architects, and making sure we have the knowledge and skills needed to play our role, as we mitigate and adapt to these enormous challenges.