What do architects know about climate change?

Monday 14 Dec 2009

UIA President Louise Cox reveals 'scary' perception about architects' role

Talking from the hubbub of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, UIA President Louise Cox revealed the 'scary' perception that the average person on the street has presented to her about architects at the conference. "People in the street are saying to me 'well, why are you here and what do architects know about climate change?' And that's scary because obviously the community doesn't understand that what we do can either reduce all these things or make them worse," she said in an exclusive podcast with World Architecture News.

Cox is participating in events to bring architecture’s part in the world climate to the fore. In addition to the UIA’s presence the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Australian Institute of Architects, Architecture Canada and the Commonwealth Association of Architects united to deliver a 15 point ‘Call for Action’ designed to encourage governments, architects and the broader global community to act on climate change, to set common targets and to highlight the importance of architecture in change.

But while architectural institutions have developed a strong united front, the world leaders’ battle from individual purpose towards a common goal is proving a more difficult task. Talks were suspended on Monday (14 Dec) as African countries walked out of discussions accusing developed countries of trying to wreck the existing Kyoto Protocol, according to news agency Reuters, despite EU leaders promising to front 2.4 billion euro a year until 2012 to help poorer countries combat global warming. "This is a walk-out over process and form, not a walkout over substance, and that's regrettable," Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told Reuters. But fellow Australian Louise Cox advised WAN just days before that tension was mounting on the periphery with demonstrators from poorer countries calling for support from richer countries, describing the tension as ‘a good thing’. She added, “I think the more controversial it is the more it will make the developed countries accountable, well, I hope that they will act like that”.

Copenhagen’s commitment to climate change measures has seen the city top the polls of a recent Economist Intelligence survey as Europe’s greenest big city and Denmark itself, despite having no hydropower resources and the lack of a long tradition of utilising biomass has achieved a 17% renewable energy status. In April this year Denmark produced its first energy positive homes developed by two Danish window companies, Velfac and Velux for the Home for Life project. Cities consume two-thirds of the world's primary energy, and produce 70% of its CO2 emissions and these are statistics that bolster the ‘think globally, act locally’ slogan first coined by environmentalists in the 1960s. The same is relevant today. “The phenomenon of climate change is a challenge that requires a truly international effort to combat both its cause and devastating effects,” said Ruth Reed, RIBA President when announcing their involvement in the Climate Conference. “However, many of the solutions - creating greener buildings, reducing energy use and changing our individual lifestyles - will be enacted at the local level, and this is where architects can play their part.”


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