Unanimous Council decision follows Stirling winners’ pledge

The RIBA today joined the growing global movement to declare a climate emergency.

The decision, endorsed by RIBA Council, acknowledged the scale of the challenge and responsibility of built environment professionals in playing their part in tackling climate change.

The unanimous vote came on the same day that Britain became the first major economy in the world to pass laws that the government said would end its contribution to global warming in 30 years.

Energy and clean growth minister Chris Skidmore signed legislation committing the UK to a legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2050.

The ambitious target was recommended by the Committee on Climate Change, the UK’s independent climate advisory body. “Net zero” means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.

Last month 17 Stirling Prize laureates gave their support to the Architects Declare campaign which has similar aims.

After the RIBA’s vote, president Ben Derbyshire said: “The climate emergency is the biggest challenge facing our planet and our profession. But to have a significant impact we need to do more than make symbolic statements – we need to turn warm words into impactful actions.

Ben derbyshire crop

Ben Derbyshire

“We architects need to transform the way we practise and, along with our fellow professionals around the world, make changes that will impact at a global level.

“While the task ahead of us is vast, we have already made some progress embedding post-occupancy evaluation into the RIBA Plan of Work and introducing enhanced sustainability requirements in our awards criteria. But there is still much more for all of us to do.

“The five-year action plan we have committed to today will ensure we are able to benchmark change and evaluate the actions that make most impact.”

>> Also read: Stirling Prize winners declare climate and biodiversity emergency


The motion commits the institute to developing a five-year detailed, measurable action plan to embed sustainable industry standards and practice.

It will also see the RIBA using its influence to improve government and inter-government policy and regulation. The institute also committed to reducing its own carbon footprint.

Other professionals are raising similar concerns and demanding more action from the government. Today more than 1,000 doctors signed a letter to the Guardian calling for nonviolent civil disobedience.

Motion endorsed by RIBA Council

1. Declaration of an environment and climate emergency and support for the UK Government’s commitment to put into legislation the UKCCC recommendation for a UK 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions target.

2. RIBA to develop an Ethics and Sustainable Development Action Plan to include measurable actions to support a net zero carbon environment, driving change, at national and international level, in:

a) Industry standards and practice

b) Government and inter-governmental policy and regulation

c) The RIBA’s own carbon footprint.

3. The RIBA should work to support chartered member practices (in the UK and internationally) enabling them to commit to voluntary reporting of core building performance metrics and to work towards the whole-life net zero carbon standard and standard Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) reporting metrics when the guidance is available.