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On the Day of a Global Climate Strike, Canadian Architects Commit to Action on the Climate Crisis

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s (RAIC) Committee on Regenerative Environments is calling on Canadian architectural and design firms to commit to combatting the climate crisis by signing a new Canadian Architects Declare pledge.

“Climate change is a reality and how we design our buildings has a huge impact on that,” says Mona Lemoine, MRAIC, chair of the committee and an architect based in Vancouver, BC. “We do have the capability to make changes with the knowledge, research, and technology that exists today. It’s an exciting time because we can make a difference.”

Today’s declaration comes on the day when architects around the world are supporting students in a Global Climate Strike, part of a week of events surrounding the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. The week of global action includes strikes on September 20 and September 27 in Canada and around the world, where students and adults will take to the streets to demand climate action. The international climate strike movement began in 2018 with Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

The declaration, titled Canadian Architectural Professionals Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency and Commit to Urgent and Sustained Action, is a grassroots effort developed by architects across the country and members of the RAIC Committee on Regenerative Environments. It is based on the UK’s Architects Declare initiative, which has about 630 signatories.

“Our interconnected crises of climate breakdown, ecological degradation, and societal inequity are the most serious issues of our time,” says the Canadian statement. “The design, construction, and operation of our built environment accounts for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, and pervasively impacts our societies and the health of the living systems that sustain us.”

The declaration urges architects and designers to raise awareness of the impact of the built environment on climate change and take immediate action through their projects and roles as advisors, advocates, educators, and enablers. 

The call to action includes: 

  • Design for holistic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Advocate for investments in a rapid transition to resilient climate-positive alternatives.
  • Eliminate waste and harm and support a quick transition to circular economies.
  • Design for holistic health, resilience, and regeneration; respecting the rights and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Adopt regenerative design principles and practices to design and develop projects and environments that go beyond the standard of net zero in use.
  • Advocate for the rapid systemic changes required to address the climate and ecological health crises, as well as the policies, funding priorities, and implementation frameworks that support them.

A companion document, Designing for the Future, expands upon actions that architects and designers can take.

With a federal election coming up on October 21, the committee calls on Canadian architects to demand commitments from political parties to keep global warming below 1.5ºC by implementing the changes outlined in the declaration. It recommends voting accordingly.

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