U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Centre, in Paris, about the COP21 climate change summit. 
Evan Vucci/Associated Press U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Centre, in Paris, about the COP21 climate change summit. 

The annual multinational gathering to address climate change kicked off on Monday in Paris with the goal of finally establishing a course of action to stabilize greenhouse gases.  In the next two weeks at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), hosted by the United Nations (U.N.), 150 world leaders are meeting to discuss commitments to limiting the average atmospheric temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels.

Buildings, in their construction and operation, are solely responsible for 30 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, making them one of the greatest contributors to climate change. Considering the industry's impact on the environment and its opportunities to support resilience and reduce worldwide energy demand, the U.N. designated its first ever “Buildings Day,” on Thursday, Dec. 3, at COP21. The day-long event will involve presentations, panels, and speeches on public policies and financial solutions to reduce carbon emissions within the sector in the hopes of aligning initiatives, organizations, partnerships, and programs to achieve greater scale and accelerate actions.

Today, the AIA released an issue paper that argues for the implementation of policies and programs that address energy conservation and the use of renewable energy to achieve any carbon reduction goals that result from the COP21 talks. "Reducing the Carbon Footprint of the Built Environment: A Roadmap for Action After COP21" calls for tax incentives, building codes, and rating systems to encourage energy efficiency in new buildings, and outlines the market opportunities in retrofits of existing structures. The AIA also urges participation in peer challenge programs like its own 2030 Commitment and the Department of Energy’s Better Building Challenge.

“When our board adopted our position statement on resilience in 2014, we saw this as a call to action for architects to address issues of climate adaptation in their practice,” AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, said in a statement. “Architects welcome the COP21 talks as a way to make sure that the role buildings play in sustainability is forefront in the delegates'  minds.”

Legislation impacting climate change could reach the U.S. House of Representatives this week as delegates prepare to vote on a bill that repeals Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which sets targets for achieving carbon neutrality in federal buildings by 2030. Blocking the repeal has been one of the AIA’s key legislative goals this year, and President Obama's administration has vowed to veto the bill if passed by Congress "because it would undermine already successful initiatives designed to modernize the nation's energy infrastructure and increase our energy efficiency," a White House statement said.

ARCHITECT will continue to follow COP21 negotiations and commitments related to the building industry as they develop.

Note: This article has been updated to correct the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit.