Architects Respond to Paris Accord Withdrawal

John Hill
2. June 2017
Our warming planet (Image: NASA)

On Thursday President Donald Trump announced that the United States would be withdrawing from the Paris agreement on climate change that his predecessor – and 195 other nations – agreed to in 2015.

The Paris accord, as it's known, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep the increase of global temperature below 2°C over pre-industrial levels and further mitigate the impacts of climate change. Though as Trump said yesterday, without irony, "As someone who cares deeply about our environment, I cannot in good conscience support a deal which punishes the United States." Trump is fulfilling a promise he made during the campaign, though up until his announcement people were holding out hope that those close to him (e.g. Jared and Ivanka) would sway the decision in the other direction. The US, the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases (following China), now joins with the only two countries that have not signed the agreement – Nicaragua and Syria – one of which disagrees with it and one of which is in the midst of a civil war.

​Immediately architecture organizations responded to Trump's announcement. AIA President Thomas Vonier said in a statement:

The United States must remain a leader in the battle to cease harmful and needless practices that damage the planet and its climate, acting out of both environmental concerns and national economic interests. Instead of helping our economy, as the Administration contends, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will put us behind our major global competitors.
The AIA will not retreat from its long-established efforts to conserve energy and to deploy renewable resources in buildings. We will continue to lead in efforts to curb the use of fuels and technologies that needlessly pollute our atmosphere and harm our environment. This makes good sense economically, and it is in the best interests of those we serve: our clients and the public.
We will also urge our members throughout the United States and the world to assist cities, states, organizations and citizen groups in meeting the aims of the climate accord.
By adhering to our values as a profession that is concerned with human habitat and the health of our environment, we will help to mitigate the harm this decision will do to our economy and to America's stature across the globe.

Architects Advocate immediately condemned "the irresponsible action by the current administration to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement" and put their support behind the Climate Solutions Caucus:

As members of the American design and construction industry, we are dedicated to tackling the challenging issues that threaten our planet by creating healthy, productive, and safe communities for all, today and in the future. We are on the front lines addressing climate change in a meaningful and impactful way, facing current issues such as energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable land use, resiliency, and adaptive reuse. More can be and must be done.
We strongly support the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and thank [its] 40 representatives for their courage in working across party lines to find solutions to this urgent real-world challenge. 
...
We are reaching out to encourage the remaining 395 House members from across all 50 states to join the Caucus as well to help face this unprecedented common challenge. We are finding that the rule requiring new Caucus members to join in pairs of one Republican and one Democrat is welcomed in an overwhelmingly positive way by the American people.

And Esa Mohamed, President of the UIA, said in a statement:

In response to the White House decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, and as organizations representing the world’s architects, we express our continued commitment to designing a more sustainable world and to making the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement a reality. 
Urban areas account for more than 70 percent of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions, mainly from buildings. Architects embrace the responsibility to design buildings and communities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions; foster healthier environments; protect and enhance natural resources; provide clean air and water; protect people from the impacts of climate change; and create sustainable, equitable and healthy communities for everyone. 
Following through on our collective commitments to reducing greenhouse gases will help to alleviate the clear perils faced by our planet and its inhabitants. We will not accept a future in which rising sea levels destroy more communities; where devastating natural disasters become the norm; where future generations face greater risk of drought; and where disease and poverty are exacerbated by the extreme impacts of a changing climate. 
The landmark Paris Agreement maps the way to a sustainable future. We are doing our part and will carry on. That is the underpinning of the 2050 Imperative, adopted by the International Union of Architects at its World Congress in Durban, South Africa. This 2014 accord commits the world architecture community to implementing carbon efficient design strategies and renewable systems. 
The architecture community adopted the 2050 Imperative as a clear message of support for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to show that architects are committed to a sustainable and equitable future. Today, that commitment is stronger than ever.
In large metropolises and small towns around the world, architects are working with their clients to design buildings and communities that use appropriate resources, protect the public from harm, and improve the quality of life. We reaffirm our commitment to designing a better world for all.

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