Occasionally, just occasionally, it can be difficult to believe politicians. So putting a group of national leaders together, with the express intention of taking joint positive international action for the greater good, may just seem like asking for trouble. It can be tricky to unpick personal and national imperatives from the wider shared goals and promises. Then those too may also be watered down, if not in the expression, then certainly in the execution.
So the promises of the recent G7 summit in Cornwall may seem to offer thin pickings for real progress. But it is easy to be cynical and equally easy to miss opportunities when they are hidden underneath a bit of spin.
Subtle changes to the landscape
The key achievements included new commitments towards climate action, global taxation, girls’ education, WTO reform, the pandemic recovery, and vaccine distribution – plus a more unified approach to China. So far so good.
Amongst other things, the G7 committed to accelerating efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep the 1.5°C global warming ceiling within reach, and to halving the G7’s collective carbon emissions by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. Further work is promised on the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars, and by 2030 the G7 nations promise to protect 30% of global land and marine areas for nature internationally and within their own territories by 2030.
These are all important goals and the public commitment by the G7 nations to follow through on these promises should not be discounted.
A new Ethos?
Such promises from the G7 are not exactly a paradigm shift. Similar promises have been made before, viz, Tokyo and Paris. But what’s encouraging is that these undertakings are part of a wider shift. It does seem, especially since a change of government is the USA, that there is greater international consensus about climate change and our required response to it. It seems, in very real terms, that the balance of knowledge, understanding and belief has shifted significantly towards doing real things to avoid a climate disaster.
At long last, this change of emphasis may be exactly what we need. And critically, this does not simply refer to national and international ‘macro’ changes. It is a reflection of the fact that, in the countries those G7 leaders represent, people take climate change seriously and they want their governments to do something about it.
Macro vs Micro, or both together?
We know already that during the Covid-19 lockdown there has been a renewal of interest in gardens and public open spaces. This is not just an expression of personal preferences. During lockdown many people have experienced – and will continue to experience – very real hardship which may take years to overcome. Nevertheless, many have also had the opportunity to re-valuate their priorities. This is not just at a personal level – we see plenty of evidence at a civic level too.
There is much more interest in public open spaces which are more than a field of grass. There is a real thirst for imaginative and thoughtfully designed public green spaces which are enriching for a wide variety of users. Think of a sensory herb garden for the visually impaired, or landscapes reminiscent of the famous 18th century vistas, scaled down as necessary.
Corporate Vision comes home
The same is true with corporate grounds. Some large companies have boasted beautiful corporate grounds, but to be realistic most have resorted to basic designs which are easy to maintain. What we are seeing now, however, is a flow of businesses and landlords who want to do more.
These companies come from many different sectors. But what unites them is an understanding that the managed landscape around their buildings is important from a multiplicity of reasons. Looking good comes high on the list, but so does employee welfare and wellbeing. For anyone working in an office all day, a lunchbreak outside in relaxing surroundings is genuine balm to the soul, especially if they themselves do not have a garden.
Planned spaces; a planned future
It is this change of emphasis that is encouraging. With better planned outside spaces it is easier to accommodate areas of fallow land, large ponds, water features, and landscapes which are generally more supportive of wildlife and bio-diversity. It is easier to introduce a greater variety of plants and trees and to plan ahead for a landscape that can be managed in a cycle of several years, not just seasonal pruning, grass cutting and the collection of leaves.
Perhaps it is this long view that is most encouraging. It is exciting to see these changes. It is exciting because it means better lives for real people. And it is exciting because, slowly, it looks like we are witnessing a societal shift in the right direction.
So, at a time when sympathy with politicians is at something of a low point, don’t be too hasty to knock G7 2021. Grandstanding and posturing? Yes, naturally. The hint of real progress? That’s something to work with. So what did the G7 do for us? Well they didn’t bring world peace or reverse climate change, but they have at least started to listen. They have at least made it a little bit easier for more people to do the right thing by the world we share.
E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are 5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens which are beautiful, practical and sustainable.