MIPIM is a major four-day conference and networking event that each year brings together over 15,000 property professionals from around the world. This year’s event interrogates the theme of “driving urban change”, with a focus on the essential value of liveability, sustainability, resilience, and affordability. If the industry is to meet its (soon to be compulsory) net zero, biodiversity, and decarbonisation targets, attract funding, and appeal to an increasingly carbon-aware market, the voice and expertise of landscape professionals are essential.
The LI, the UK’s chartered body for the landscape profession, sent four senior representatives, including Noel, to the biggest and most influential event in the property calendar. Building on the Institute’s presence at COP26, the LI delegation has continued to push green infrastructure, green investment, and landscape skills to the top of the agenda.
Noel is adamant there has been a positive change in agenda and discussion at MIPIM this year as the conference focus shifts towards environmental and social values. He added: “I’ve been attending MIPIM conferences for the best part of 20 years now and, historically, these values are issues that have never been high on the agenda.”
Now, there appears to have been “a genuine move in the direction towards understanding what drives urban change”. Noel explained that, post-COVID-19, the relationship between people and nature has started to realign.
“We are now beginning to see the large investors, the pension funds, and the world organisations understand they need to tangibly invest in environment and social value, for example public realms, and open public spaces where people mix.”
Noel explained that the LI focusing is on “how we can improve the quality of people’s lives”, which now – after investors interest – is an agenda that will need to permeate through our political system.
As an important voice at the MIPIM conference, the LI bought their expertise, though Noel stressed they are not the decision makers. “We know the difference the landscape can make, what makes a place feel safe and enjoyable, and how to achieve this. But, we aren’t the large investors, which is why it’s why vital we’re here and involved in discussion.”
Noel was pleased to see northern cities, along with other areas of the UK he believes are not represented so strongly, start to speak up. “They were coherent, wanting to make a difference, and recognising the importance of devolution. Its become evident, basic fundamental productivity in the UK is linked to devolution. The government need to sit up and listen.
The fundamental change, Noel explained, is the developing understanding of the complexity around social values and the environment – and how you measure them. “It’s time to talk about functioning quality places built and designed for people to enjoy. ‘Levelling up’ means so much more than just small amounts of money being dished out from the government to small towns, which isn’t actually going to make a difference.”
So, why has this recognition and need for change regarding the environment and social values suddenly occurred at MIPIM this year? Noel noted that an element of this has come as result of COVID-19, “it’s a by-happy product that has come out of a horrible thing.”
He continued on to explain large organisations are understanding there is a climate emergency, and they will now have to begin investing in a way that will be impacting in 2050, and drive the industry.
Undoubtedly, this recognition lays out a positive path for the future of the landscaping sector which Noel explained he hasn’t seen before, sharing that “this is an exciting moment, and I hope will enable for a more sustainable future”. In the long term, Noel stated this drive towards urban change should place those working in the industry in a better place in society, and “allow for better salaries in the sector too”.