Last month, Architecture 2030 sent a robust delegation to COP28 and tapped a talented crew as virtual delegates. Altogether, the NGO was represented by 21 people representing multiple disciplines and perspectives. I asked several of them to share their impressions after the event closed:
What was your biggest takeaway from COP28?
Kelly Alvarez Doran, Architecture 2030 Senior Fellow and founder of Ha/f Climate Design: COP was an opportunity to step outside of the silo I typically occupy -- the English-speaking built environment community -- to engage people from all over the world from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives all gathered to share, learn and find new means of collaboration. The ideas, relationships, and commitments that emerge out of COP are its most important outcome as they'll be what serves to unite us to work together towards systemic change.
Lisa Richmond, Architecture 2030 Senior Fellow and founder of Climate Strategy Works: My biggest takeaway was a sense of urgency to work towards climate justice, fueled by new relationships forged at COP with people from around the world who are already suffering the consequences of climate change. As major contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, buildings bear some responsibility for the harm those emissions cause. Many common construction materials also negatively impact the ecosystems, people, and communities who extract and manufacture them. Centering those most harmed by climate change means we need to deploy every tool in our toolkit to reduce those harms and contribute to solutions.
Lori Ferriss, AIA, PE, Architecture 2030 Senior Fellow and design and research teaching fellow at the College of Arts, Media, and Design at Northeastern University: My biggest takeaway was an overwhelming appreciation for the people across every sector and from every part of the world and every culture who are dedicated to the common goal of stemming climate change.
Julie Hiromoto, FAIA, Director of Integration at HKS: We finally acknowledged fossil fuels, but the consensus language was not urgent enough to equitably keep us within the desired 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.
Chris Hardy, ASLA, Associate at Sasaki: It is clear after COP that the accelerated change needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change cannot follow the lead of global agreements, which are incremental. An alternative approach is harnessing the power of cities. Cities are responsible for more than 70% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Cities contribute more than 80% of the world's GDP and house a majority of its population. The citizens of the densest cities have the lowest carbon footprints of their regional populations. Cities are complex reefs of humanity, and they are of a political scale where policy and action can happen in years instead of decades. In cities, we have the challenge and the agency to make the radical transformation of our world that global agreements can only hope to achieve.
Why is it important that building practitioners participate in these global dialogues?
Pablo La Roche, Principal at Arcadis: The need for shelter and buildings is something that we all share worldwide and a good opportunity to reduce emissions. Participating in these global dialogues helps us understand the complexity of the challenges that we face to do this, and at the same time provides an opportunity for global leaders to understand that we have the knowledge to also do our part in reducing anthropogenic emissions.
Yasemin Kologlu, RIBA, Principal at SOM: Our theories and visions need to turn into measurable actions with positive outcomes to address climate change and practitioners are central to these efforts and scaling up of implementation solutions collectively and effectively.
What is your most meaningful memory of COP?
Kelly Alvarez Doran: Sitting across from the Iraq delegation on the train home ahead of final negotiations. That a phase-out of fossil fuels would "kill us in Iraq." We need to work with countries like Iraq and Venezuela as much as we do with Pacific Island states and our own communities to help create a broader vision for a post-oil future. What does a just and equitable transition look like across the world?
What is one thing you wish world leaders and negotiators knew about the built environment?
Scott Francisco, Director of Cities4Forests and Pilot Projects Design Collective: The built environment should not be seen simply as a cost center in terms of associated carbon but rather as a catalyst for changes to all of the systems and infrastructures on which we depend, natural and man-made. This includes our global forests, energy, urbanism, food production, transportation, material extraction, waste management - everything. Buildings are connected to everything else that humans do. They shelter us, but also restrict us, guide us, and show us the scope of the possible every day of our lives.
Julie Hiromoto: I want them to understand that architects and design thinkers solve system challenges every day and that we want to be their climate action partners to creatively address the biggest challenges of our time. We don’t want them to wait to engage us when they need a building.
Lori Ferriss: The built environment is ripe with opportunities for place-based, people-centered climate action that make a uniquely positive impact on both the planet and on communities.
For more, read the Architecture 2030 COP28 Report Card here.
Read more on building a greener world: Caring for the Buildings We Have | Putting Decarbonization Back on the Global Stage | Now Is the Time for Radical Collaboration | Can We Halve Carbon in the Built Environment? | The Race to Decarbonize Buildings Is On. | Building on the Best of COP27