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.