Architects call for urgent climate action ahead of COP 26

Architects call for urgent climate action ahead of COP 26

Ahead of the Built Environment Summit (28-29 October) and COP26 (1-12 November), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Architects Declare have published a report demonstrating the critical role the sector must play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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‘Built for the Environment’ brings together research and evidence from industry experts to prompt the built environment sector to scale-up its capabilities, and sets out bold recommendations to governments ahead of COP26. These range from reporting emissions on a consumption basis to adapting building codes that support the decarbonisation of buildings.

RIBA and Architects Declare are encouraging organisations from across the global built environment sector to endorse the report and its recommendations, which calls for:

  • Governments to ensure environmental targets are science-based and fair – this means reporting greenhouse gas emissions on a consumption-basis, and including built environment actions and all sources of emissions within net zero plans (including nationally determined contributions).
  • Governments to shift focus onto reducing absolute emissions, as opposed to reductions per square metre of building area, or per person. Greenwashing or reliance on large offsets will not help us meet our collective goals.
  • Governments must both mitigate and adapt to the climate and biodiversity emergencies. Nature-based solutions and traditional ecological knowledge, wisdom and technologies are central to both.
  • Those operating within the built environment to actively adapt practice. From breaking down silos between disciplines and competencies, to communicating and sharing information, to shifting cultural ideas of beauty and design, the entire sector must adapt.
  • Information to be openly and widely shared to enable collaboration and transparent decision-making. This includes information around land, buildings, ecosystems, and infrastructure, as well as knowledge and skills.
  • Social justice to remain at the heart of all action. This means involving those impacted by change in decision-making, and together designing social policies to facilitate a transition to a fair and sustainable built environment, taking steps to ensure unintended negative consequences are addressed quickly and fairly.

The report comes ahead of Architects Declare and RIBA’s Built Environment Summit – a two-day virtual conference on 28 and 29 October – that will provide an opportunity for the sector to unite ahead of COP26.


RIBA President, Simon Allford, said: “As we approach COP26 and the critical juncture to limit global warming to below 2 C, we must unite as a sector to drive change.

“This timely report emphasises the critical role our professions can and must play to tackle the climate emergency, and clearly states where we require change, particularly within challenging political landscapes and inadequate policies. Industry and governments need to work together to accelerate the global decarbonisation of buildings. I encourage the entire sector to endorse and amplify the report’s recommendations – we must speak with one voice to deliver a clear and urgent message.”

Maria Smith, director of sustainability at Buro Happold and editor of the report, said:

“This report is a call for governments across the world to include built environment actions in their net zero plans. The built environment sector can be a transformative force in meeting the challenges of the climate and biodiversity emergency. The knowledge, tools, and skills exist, but support and infrastructure is needed to mainstream best practice and bring about the transition to a fair and sustainable built environment for all.”

The report can be downloaded from