IFLA Advisory Circle, Montreal, Canada 2017
Carbon Landscape Action Plan Report
IFLA Advisory Circle Paper
The Carbon Landscape Policy-The development of an IFLA Climate Change Action Plan
Drafted by Craig Pocock, Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects, IFLA Advisory Panel, Currently Based in San Antonio, Texas
Date 4 November 2017
For IFLA Advisory Panel and IFLA Working group on Climate Change.
Brief description of issue
Landscape architecture is recognized internationally as one of the most significant design, planning and management disciplines that positively influences the health and wellbeing of land, environmental systems and communities. However, landscape architects are also a significant contributor to climate change due to the design and build aspect of our discipline. As material, implementation and management specifiers we are an active part of the manufacturing industry and the process of manufacturing, from the harvesting of raw materials to the transportation of the final product is considered one of the most significant polluters in the world. All landscape institutes, local, regional and International (IFLA) are in a significant position to reduce the carbon foot print of landscape architecture by working as a collective through a series of climate change action plans, polices and initiatives.
Purpose of paper
To consider and suggest a range of actions that IFLA could engage in to reduce the carbon foot print of its members and to lead a positive approach to planning, designing and managing landscape architecture and its negative impacts on climate.
Based on research done in 2007 it is suggested that an average carbon foot print of a landscape architect is 1100 tons of carbon dioxide per year. If this number is extrapolated to include the IFLA membership (in 2010) it means IFLA members are responsible for over 50 million tons of CO2 a year making IFLA as a collective a significant contributor to climate change. These numbers were conservative and the actual IFLA C02 impact number is likely to be much higher.
However, due to the collective nature of IFLA it is also possible to make significant changes across its international membership to help mitigate our collective carbon foot print and the associate impacts on climate change.
With free market resources such as annual market value of over 21 billion US dollars internationally, access to thousands of universities and education providers and over 45 thousand members, IFLA has the ability, with focused action plans, to make significant positive impact on climate change. Those actions plan may include focusing on IFLA free market value to influence the materials industrial, using access to education providers to promote research in to the issues of carbon and pollution within the landscape industry. It might use its influence to promote the education of the next generation of designers on the issues of the carbon impact of our work and use its influential members to lobby for positive climate change polices at government levels. The way forward for IFLA is to develop a IFLA climate action plan that uses all aspects of IFLA influence for positive change and empowers each IFLA region and country to engage with the issue based on their needs and resources.
For significant positive movement in the area of Climate Change, IFLA needs to fund an IFLA Climate Change Action Plan initiative to create timeframes, a financial plan and deliverables within the first year with a review period to consider ongoing funding and the development of climate change tools for its membership.
In 2007, my first article addressing the possible negative climate impacts of landscape architecture was published in Topos 61, 2007 “The Carbon Landscape”. It outlines the logic behind the possible carbon footprint of a landscape architect and by using myself as the example, I demonstrate rudimentary calculations on what a possible carbon footprint might be for a landscape architect (1100 tons of CO2 per year). The article goes on to look at whether the carbon footprint was mitigated or offset by the planting we were responsible for specifying within a project. The conclusion is that the planting we have within our projects does not offset our carbon footprint of the materials we use, that the average landscape architect was in carbon debt each year and that this carbon cost accumulation over the course of a career was significant. The article goes on to examine where within a projects lifecycle (design, materials, implementation and management) did the high carbon costs sit.The article’s final conclusions are;
“ (1) There is a fundamental imbalance in our work; the planting we create cannot possibility off-set the high embodied energy cost of the materials we most commonly rely upon as landscape architects. (2) The high carbon values don’t sit in the areas that we traditionally try to control, such as focusing on creating sustainable and carbon friendly offices and work spaces. The carbon footprint of my office and travel was manageable and possible to completely offset. The highest carbon value sits in the carbon cost of the materials we use and the ongoing maintenance of landscapes. (3) If it is assumed that urban landscapes are material-intensive and produce a high carbon footprint which is impossible to offset within the same project land area, then the life expectancy of that urban space becomes critical, making any urban renewal process come at a high carbon cost.
If the uncomfortable conclusion is that we are presently on the wrong side of the carbon debt, the next question is what we do about it.”
These findings were presented at the 2006 IFLA World Congress in Kuala Lumpur, the Topos article was written as a follow up to the presentation.
From 2007 on-wards I started to consider not only options for reducing the carbon footprint within landscape architecture but also considering what the carbon costs might be for landscape architecture at an institutional and international scale using the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects and for the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) as case studies.
The numbers calculated are significant however acknowledged to still be on the conservatively low side for example IFLA carbon footprint for its 45,587 members (in 2010) was over 50 million tons per year.
To illustrate that size and significant impact of 50 million tons of C02 I worked out the required offset of trees which was almost 5.5 billion trees requiring over 18 million hectares of land in which to plant those tree, PER year.
I went on to consider options for reducing the carbon footprint of IFLA as a collective and considered a range of options from education and research to networking information and political lobbing. With the focus on making the biggest positive change to reducing IFLA carbon footprint in the quickest timeframes I suggest that the free market and the collective buying power of IFLA could be used to influence the materials industry to reduce their material carbon footprints and by association the carbon footprint of landscape architects that specify their materials. It is estimated within the Topos 2010 article that IFLA collective free market value might be around 21 billion US dollars a year with just over 53% of that value being spent on the hard materials market, around 11 billion US dollars.
“The 11 billion US dollar figure is more important than the total landscape implementation figure of 21 billion US dollars as it suggests what the market value IFLA has in the carbon heavy “materials” side of the market. The conservative figure of just over 11 billion per year raises the question, if IFLA as a governing body harnessed that economic buying power and started to give its members regional and local driven director on materials sections, would it reduce the carbon impact of landscape design” 
As pointed out in the Topos article 2010, large international corporations have rebranded produces, created environmental, community and fair-trade based practices and policies to meet changing consumer requirements and IFLA is a major consumer who, if it behaved as a collective, could also instigate positive change.
These findings were presented at the 2009 IFLA World Congress in Rio de Janeiro the Topos article 2010 was written as a follow up to the presentation. Both Topos articles lead to a conversation in 2010 about what a “IFLA climate charter” might look like. In response I wrote the “Open Letter to IFLA-Climate Change Action Plan Model” which outlined how IFLA could use its considerable collective membership to create significant positive change in our carbon footprint.
It suggests that;
“If IFLA wants to make a significant positive impact on reducing global warming then it has to be willing to bring to bear its full weight on the issue. This may mean IFLA having to reconsider its role as an institute. As an international collective IFLA has considerable political and economic influence, which if used as a constructive tool could bring about the fastest positive change for climate change. We know that landscape architecture is a major client of the international manufacturing (concrete, steel, copper, stainless steel, plastics, money stone, timber), which is one of the most polluting sectors in the world, secondary only to agriculture.
If IFLA were to start meaningful dialogue with the manufacturing about the issues of environmental impact of material production and empower its individual members with the information to make informed decisions on materials selection, it would achieve a significant impact on climate change. The traditional approach of strengthening education and research is a positive step but IFLA can make a greater contribution by starting to use its collective buying power foe positive change ” 
As the dialog continued beyond the free market value of IFLA the next step was to consider a “carbon landscape tool” to help inform landscape architects about the design decisions they were making.
In conjunction with Lincoln University, Kirsten O’Connor, Mike Barthelmeh and Dr Shannon Davis and I co-authored a peered reviewed research report on the “Carbon and Environmental Profiling of Hard Landscape Materials”. The report reviews internationally accepted options for profiling landscape materials, how life cycle assessment of materials is calculated and how that information could be applied to typical landscape details such as surfaces to provide landscape architects with a “per square metre” carbon, energy and financial calculation. The research attempts to simulate the development of a “carbon tool” that landscape architects could use to inform their design decisions. Even though this would still be a valuable tool for the New Zealand environment it would be a better tool to develop internationally by IFLA an obvious next step to better understanding how the carbon, energy impact of our design and management decisions.
Lack of current research and education on the impacts of landscape architecture on the climate.
Compared to many knowledge bases within landscape architecture such as green infrastructure, stormwater management, ecological connectivity and community engagement that are well understood and have been the focus of decades of research and articles, the carbon landscape and the general negative impact of our work has not had the same level of focus. This is understandably considering the general “green” nature of our work that aims to deliver environmental and community wellbeing. There is a general comparative lack of articles, research and education on the subjects of carbon and embodied energy of design, implementation and management within landscape architecture that needs addressing.
Lack of information and tools available for landscape architects to make informed decisions.
To write the Topos articles on the carbon landscape and produce the associated figures mentioned above were compiled from a range of sites from airline carbon miles calculators to Canada sequestration information on trees, there was no one place to get information on the carbon impact of our work.
The architects and the building industry seem to have better availability of carbon and embodied energy values available for use but they don’t necessarily translate into the palette of a landscape architect. There does not seem to be any ready access “carbon calculator” tools or even lists of carbon values of materials available that would help inform landscape architects and so the void of information continues to justify landscape architects to make material, implementation and management decisions based on parameters such as aesthetic and costs and not sustainable parameters.
The barriers to developing life cycle assessment values for landscape architects.
To make an informed “carbon” decision on a material and its environmental profile requires each material to be researched and calculated values applied. This is normally done using a life cycle assessment method (LCAs) but there are barriers in both the cost of each material assessment which can be significant. These LCA values would be needed to develop a carbon calculator for the landscape industry and so economically it makes sense to been developed these LCAs values as a international collective and not as individuals.
Lack of Networking on the issue of the Carbon Landscape
In 10 years of writing and presenting on the carbon landscape internationally to universities, other design industries and the construction industry I have found very few landscape architects, education and research professionals currently working in this area.
Climate change is such a rapidly growing problem and opportunity within landscape architecture; the issue of the negative impact of our work on climate and the growing market for landscape architects to responded to the impacts of climate change on our environments and communities an incredible and uncomfortable market in equal measures. I believe we have to respond to both issues, the negative impacts of our work needs to be acknowledge and addressed and the highly developed skills we have to develop resilient responses to climate change needs to be applied to our communities and landscapes.
There seem to be no IFLA, regional or local landscape architecture networks that are working together to deal with the issues of the carbon footprint of our work or a collective response to climate change. We seem to be working in silos and missing the opportunity to work as a collective on issues such as using our free market value for positive change or developing an education package for the education providers on the subject the carbon landscape. IFLA as the overarching governing body has the power and resources needed to create the networks for more effective climate change responses.
Measures of success.
“Signs that the pace of climate change is surpassing the worst-case scenarios scientist predicted in 2007…we are headed to very serious changes in our planet and we need to appreciate how serious it is in order to lead support to the transformational policy measures that need to be taken”
It is hard to talk about measure of success on such a complex and significant issue of climate change at a time when IFLA has no existing infrastructure to take on this issue. I am not sure if IFLA or landscape architects internationally in general have even acknowledged we are contributors to the issues of climate change?
However, the significant tool and power that IFLA can apply to the issue of Climate Change is it’s collective membership that if focused and bought to task could achieve significant positive change. If I was to pick three “measures of success” in the first 12 months of a focused carbon landscape group it would be ;
As a collective IFLA has significant resources to make positive changes in the environmental impact of our work. IFLA could not only lead in the approach to carbon landscape and climate change response but could initiate the collaboration with other design and land based disciplines to increase our effectiveness on the issues of climate change. IFLA could:
DRAFT recommended actions:
The focus groups may include but not limited to the following initiatives;
Pocock, C. (2007). The Carbon Landscape. Topos 61, 86-89. Callwey Verlag, Lindau Germany.
Pocock, C. (2010). The Carbon Landscape-Using the free market to fight Climate Change. Topos 70, 76-79. Callwey Verlag, Lindau Germany.
Pocock, C. (2011). Open Letter to IFLA-Climate Change Action Plan. Retrieved October 8 http://www.carbonlandscape.com
O’Connor K, Pocock C, Barthelmeh M, Davis S. (Dec 2012). Carbon and Environmental Profiling of Hard Landscape Materials. LeAP Reseach Report No. 22. Retrieved October 8 https://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/handle/10182/4081
Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director-The Climate Change Science Compendium 2009 UNEP
 The Carbon Landscape, Topos 61, 2007, by Craig Pocock
 Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director-The Climate Change Science Compendium 2009 UNEP
Presented: IFLA World Council Meeting, Montreal Canada, 2017