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RIBA blasted after hosting oil industry event

Shutterstock drilling for oil

The RIBA has sparked ‘dismay’ after hosting a conference about oil drilling opportunities in Africa at its London headquarters

The one-day Africa Oil and Power Investor Forum, which focused on ‘exploration and investment’ in countries including Nigeria, Gabon and Angola, took place at 66 Portland Place on Monday (June 17).

Today, the RIBA is hosting a ‘climate action roundtable’ for built environment professionals, which was addressed by former environment secretary John Gummer, who is the chair of the Committee on Climate Change; while next week RIBA Council will vote on whether to declare a climate emergency.

Architect and sustainability campaigner Duncan Baker-Brown said: ‘My first reaction to this was dismay. We cannot be saying one thing and doing another. We’ve been talking about this issue for years so it’s a bit rich to take money from this organisation.’

Baker-Brown, who was the keynote speaker at this week’s AJ100 Awards, added that many organisations were struggling to adapt to the challenges of the climate threat and said he preferred to encourage them rather than act like the ‘climate police’.

‘I would like the RIBA to make the right decision on June 27th,’ he said.

Marks Barfield co-founder Julia Barfield, last year’s chair of the RIBA National and International Awards, called the institute’s hosting of the event ‘extraordinary’ given heightened awareness of global warming and the issues thrown up by controversial sponsors of the arts such as BP and the Sackler family.

‘The consequence of this industry’s business model is the destruction of life on earth,’ she said. ‘I can only assume that this was organised many months ago before the IPCC report, before Greta, before Attenborough’s documentary, and that in future [the RIBA] will more careful.’

Other architects questioned whether the RIBA was following through on its ethical commitments and being transparent about how it is funded.

IF_DO director Thomas Bryans said: ‘I completely understand that the RIBA needs to make money, but the use of their space needs to align with their principles.

‘Hosting an oil conference goes against what they’re saying publicly and seems hypocritical. They say they need this money to support members but are members really aware of where this money comes from?’

An RIBA spokesperson said it ‘carefully considered’ commercial decisions on private venue hire, adding: ‘In no circumstances should [these decisions] be considered as endorsement of any company or activity.’

They continued: ‘Clearly many sectors need to transform to meet climate targets. As a major contributor to the issue, the global construction industry has a key role to play in tackling the challenge. RIBA Council will be discussing this as a priority, including vitally important measurable actions, next week.’

Organisers of the Africa Oil and Power Investor Forum have been approached for comment. 


Readers' comments (8)

  • Hmm, hot on the hills of the Design Museum outrage - an arms event.
    I guess it all aligns with the hypocrisy of the people in power.
    The government is going to appeal against the ruling on selling killing gear to the Saudis.
    It's all one picture...

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  • Possibly the RIBA was attempting to encourage members to diversify into other industries and take advantage of the oil drilling opportunities in Africa? Maybe they can convene an arms dealing convention later this year and host a chemical weapons exhibition next year. It's all about thinking outside of the box of traditional architectural practice...it's a creative profession.

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  • Only yesterday, at the Doric Club lunch, Ben Derbyshire was boasting that he had toured to world to get fellow institutes to sign up to environmentally friendly, socially responsible policies. The next council meeting is to vote on a "climate emergency" declaration.
    Slogans come easy, but actions are the true signifiers.

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  • Extinction rebellion or RIBA. I know who I am putting my lot in with.
    C'mon RIBA, you are no better than BoJo with attitudes like that.

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  • Can the RIBA start with an immediate commitment to carbon neutrality, with independent measurement and monitoring by Simon Sturgis? Followed by a complete moritorium on air travel and the recission of Benny Darbishyre’s air miles? Climate emergency has rapidly become a very hollow and meaningless phrase...we are again substituting rhetoric for action and carrying on with business as usual.

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  • perhaps it is time to really prove the commitment by selling off that ridiculous, inefficient palace opposite the Chinese embassy and building a carbon neutral new headquarters somewhere that needs an economic boost? Or perhaps we should all just give up on the RIBA and leave them to represent millionaires while the majority of the profession starts an actual functional union!

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  • RIBA event space rented out or they can put up membership fees and not rent out the space

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  • it is oil that has a major contribution in allowing many of you to post comments against its extraction....! Doh...

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