UK architects sign landmark climate pledge with Commonwealth countries

The Royal Institute of British Architects is among those who have signed the promise.

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Wednesday 05 July 2023 00:01 BST
The UK is urbanising at a rate of 1% a year(Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The UK is urbanising at a rate of 1% a year(Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

British architects have signed a landmark climate pledge alongside those in Commonwealth countries to address environmental degradation and the rapid growth in urban populations.

The agreement has been signed by 10 members of the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA), which represents national architecture professional bodies.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is among those which have signed the pledge which aims to underline the sector’s “fundamental role” in tackling climate change and finding solutions to global sustainability challenges.

The world’s urban population is expected to almost double from 2015 to 2050, and almost 50% of that growth is projected to be in the Commonwealth.

Our towns and cities are key contributors to carbon emissions

Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick

Cities already consume more than two thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of all carbon emissions, according to the UN.

The CAA is warning that rapid urbanisation will have a devastating impact on ecosystems, leading to serious social, economic and environmental consequences unless current trends change.

Many Commonwealth countries are among those most at risk from climate change.

The CAA cited Uganda as one of the countries urbanising rapidly with a lack of capacity and expertise.

The country has around 250 architects and 100 planners for a population of 48 million, and is urbanising at a rate of 6% a year, the CAA says.

This compares to the UK with 41,500 architects and 22,000 planners for a population of 67 million, urbanising at a rate of 1% a year.

The new pledge seeks to ensure member states are adequately equipped with the capacity and skills to create inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable urban areas as they grow.

Signatories will use the network to focus urgently on countries facing the most immediate climate challenges.

They will collaborate to develop capacity in areas including policy and legislation, learning and development, and urban planning and design.

The initiative will also support advocacy for those countries in greatest need while encouraging national governments and donors to offer assistance and investment.

Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick, chief executive of RIBA, said: “Architects and other built environment professionals have a fundamental role to play in tackling the climate emergency.

“Our towns and cities are key contributors to carbon emissions, but also places where creative sustainable solutions can and must be realised.

“This partnership, led by the CAA, is an excellent example of how we, and our counterparts across the world, can use our knowledge, expertise, and influence to make a material difference.

“And we are equally committed to learning from other countries who are already facing the impacts of climate change, as we all must adapt to the realities of a warmer planet.”

Peter Oborn, CAA president, said: “The CAA is grateful to the founding signatories for their commitment to this exciting new partnership and are encouraged by the high level of interest that has been shown by member organisations.

“Only by working together in this way will we be able to confront the challenges we face, and the Commonwealth with its shared values, provides the perfect platform from which to do so.”

Signatories so far include trade organisations from Kenya, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Canada, the UK, Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda.

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