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Architects across the world rally against Trump's Paris pullout

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Organisations representing the world’s architects, including the RIBA, have signed a letter opposing Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement

The letter – also backed by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the International Union of Architects (UIA) – expresses the continued commitment of the global community of architects to ‘designing a more sustainable world and to making the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris agreement a reality’.

It reads: ‘The landmark Paris agreement maps the way to a sustainable future. We are doing our part and will carry on.’ 

The letter comes after Trump last week controversially pledged to withdraw the US – the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases – from the Paris climate agreement.

By removing itself from the Paris deal, the US joins only two other countries not participating in the deal: Syria and Nicaragua. 

The document states: ‘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.’

It later adds that the commitment of architects internationally to achieving a ‘sustainable and equitable future’ is ‘stronger than ever’.

It reads: ‘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.’

Other signatories of the letter are Africa Union of Architects (AUA); Architects Council of Europe (ACE); Federación de Colegios de Arquitectos de la República Mexicana (FCARM); Japan Institute of Architects (JIA); and Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).

Trump said remaining in the agreement would cost the US $3 trillion (£2.3 trillion) in lost GDP and 6.5 million jobs, claiming that it gave preferential treatment to rival economies such as China and India.

However, he added that his country would ‘begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accords or a really entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States’. 

The letter was organised by the AIA, which said in a different statement that the body opposed Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord. AIA president Thomas Vonier urged AIA members to continue to meet the aims of the agreement, saying this would ‘mitigate the harm this decision will do to our economy and to America’s stature across the globe’. 

In a separate statement, RIBA president Jane Duncan said that Trump ‘backing out of the Paris agreement represents one of the most regressive decisions of our time’.

She added: ‘To give up on tackling climate change is to give up on the prospects for future generations all around the world …

‘The RIBA is determined that built-environment professionals will continue to push toward agreed sustainable development goals regardless of the decision of the president of the United States of America.’ 

Other industry bodies in the UK have also criticised Trump’s decision, including the UK Green Building Council; the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA); and the Town and Country Planning Association.

The Paris accord was set up in 2016 to limit global warming attributed to emissions. Participating countries agreed, among other committments, to keep global temperatures below the level of 2°C above pre-industrial times, and ‘endeavor’ to limit them further to 1.5°C. 

It involves the voluntary reduction of emissions by participating nations. 

The letter

1 June 2017

In response to the White House decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement, and as organisations 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 per cent 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.

Aj trump post truth edit

Aj trump post truth edit

Comments from across the UK profession

Julia Evans, chief executive, BSRIA 

It is extremely regrettable and disappointing that president Trump has decided not to stick to the path in combating climate change. This worrying u-turn is a huge blow to the policies aimed at improving climate change and the associated agenda around renewable technologies. Clearly, this represents a missed opportunity for such renewable technology.

We can’t let this decision steamroll or derail future technology

But – as part of a worldwide industry – we can’t let this decision steamroll or derail future technology in renewables and the move to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon usage in the built environment. BSRIA is committed to supporting the UK government in reducing carbon and, indeed, its position on this.

Peter Fisher, director, Bennetts Associates

My view is that while it is symbolically disastrous, in reality it won’t make much difference. The Paris accord didn’t actually commit countries to much outside of self-defined targets.

Clean tech is almost at the point of being competitive without subsidies and electric cars and, importantly for buildings, battery storage will soon be the norm. US industry is now more of a driver than its government.

John Alker, campaign and policy director, UK-GBC

Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement was predictable and depressing. But the response from many world leaders, businesses and cities has been swift and inspiring.

The risk was that if Trump pulled out, other countries might follow suit and suddenly businesses across the world start to ask whether governments are serious or not. In actual fact, the opposite seems to have happened. Many world leaders, and importantly city and state leaders and businesses themselves, have reaffirmed their support for the Paris agreement.

Clare Murray, head of sustainability, Levitt Bernstein 

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement is incredibly damaging but somewhat inevitable. Despite the grave actions of one misinformed but powerful man in the US, it is still likely to be business as usual in the UK.

Sadly for us though, our government also appears to be pushing for retractions in our commitments elsewhere – in a much less public way – by quietly lobbing Europe to reduce the effectiveness of the Energy Efficiency Directive. If successful, this could reduce the requirement to carry out some of the much needed energy efficiency renovations to existing buildings, which forms the largest portion of CO2 emissions in the built environment.

Hugh Ellis, head of policy, Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA)

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement is a disaster for the survival of future generations. As a country, our attention must now focus on the rapid transformation of the built environment to deal with the inevitable increases in severe weather.

Trump’s decision is a disaster for the survival of future generations

Many vulnerable places now require transformational strategies to give them a chance of being resilient to sea level rises, flooding and erosion. All of this requires radical changes to our national policy and institutions, and a planning system that is capable of thinking over the long term about the survival of our communities.

Andrew Waugh, director of Waugh Thistleton Architects

It’s an obvious and global disaster that Trump has withdrawn America from the only solution and become a big part of the problem. It’s a disaster for all in the UK as May looks to align us away from Europe to America’s beck and call.

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