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Marco: government's green man?

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RIBA president Marco Goldschmied has made an ambitious bid to advise Tony Blair directly on sustainable development.

Goldschmied last week put his name forward to become one of 15 experts on sustainability who will provide advice to the prime minister as part of a Sustainable Development Commission, which was unveiled last week and is being chaired by environmentalist Jonathon Porritt.

But the commission has already been attacked by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) as a repackaging of existing initiatives. 'There's always a risk that this could develop into another talking shop depending on who the members are, ' an ICE spokesman said. The commission will receive £500,000 a year from the Cabinet Office and will replace the UK Round Table and the British Government Panel on Sustainable Development.

Commissioners will work just one day each month and Jonathon Porritt will work four days a month to review the achievement of sustainable development across all sectors of the economy, to identify unsustainable trends and to encourage good practice.

Goldschmied hopes to be the voice of the built environment, but competition for places is expected to be stiff with the commission secretary reporting a 'vast amount of interest' from potential candidates on top of the shortlist already drawn up by the government. After making sustainability the principle issue of his presidency, Goldschmied risks embarrassment if he is not selected. All appointments are expected to be made by September.

The Royal Town Planning Institute is also considering putting forward a candidate, although it is likely to propose a practitioner rather than a figurehead, the institute's head of public affairs David Rose said. Peter Smith, the RIBA vice president responsible for sustainability, said he too would like to be on the commission. But the RIBA's government liaison officer, Jonathan Labrey, predicted that Goldschmied has a good chance of inclusion.

'I think he has a strong case because his highest profile issue has been sustainability, ' Labrey said. 'It is quite unusual for a commission to feed directly into the prime minister so this is very significant and would give us access at the very highest level.'

The bid for influence follows Goldschmied's complaint at the RIBA Council last week that the profession has failed to develop good contacts at government level (see page 14) and he welcomed the initiative.

'Sustainability is absolutely fundamental to the development of our built environment, as such I have made it the key message for my presidency, 'Goldschmied said. 'I am delighted that the prime minister recognises how crucial sustainability is.'

In the UK, energy used by existing buildings accounts for 46 per cent of all CO2 emissions and their construction accounts for 5 per cent.Architects hope that these figures will guarantee the building profession a place on the commission.

The commission will also report to the first ministers of the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and its power will depend on these politicians following its recommendations.

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