There has never been a greater urgency for climate action.
by Ed Mazria and Natasha Balwit
We are in a race to find solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and sustainable development and energy for all. This crucial moment provides us an extraordinary opportunity to assess and RESET our priorities and actions for the built environment.
Both the COVID-19 pandemic and current worldwide protests against racial injustice reveal deeply entrenched social inequities that are far from new. Powerful responses to both crises acknowledge this truth and seek both short-term solutions as well as systemic change. When public attention subsides, the hard work will continue. Underlying these injustices is the fact that fossil fuel emissions and climate change have a disproportionate impact on low-income and communities of color. With limited resources they must contend with climate hazards such as air pollution, which can cause increased rates of respiratory illness and vulnerability to disease; displacement from flooding, fires, and other natural disasters; migration because of drought, scarcity of clean water, and lack of food security; and heatwaves and heat-related occupational illness. These impacts will only deepen and exacerbate current injustice if the root cause of climate change is not immediately addressed. Slowing and reversing the climate crisis requires a sustained focus and urgent commitment in the wake of the current pandemic: Once a threshold of global warming is crossed, climate change will continue to intensify and will be irreversible.
As the global pandemic subsides and economies reopen, there will be a rush to jump-start infrastructure and building construction in order to create much-needed jobs. Recognizing that timing and addressing the up-front carbon emissions from construction materials are critical, and that the built environment is responsible for more than 70% of all CO₂ emissions, Architecture 2030, ARCHITECT, and their partners will host the CarbonPositive RESET! 1.5°C Global Teach-In. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sets the threshold for global temperature rise at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels to avert an irreversible descent into climate chaos. We know the extent of change and work required to stay below this threshold: a 50% to 65% reduction of fossil fuel CO₂ emissions by 2030, and complete phase-out by 2040.
There is no better time to set all sights on meeting this target and firmly commit to immediate actions. The teach-in will bring together experts, practitioners, students, and policymakers from across the world. Together, we will focus on implementing the most effective and regionally-specific architecture and planning strategies, materials, construction methods, tools, and policies to rapidly reduce carbon emissions in order to meet the Paris Climate Agreement target.
At CarbonPositive’20 in March, we provided a how-to for planning, designing, building, and manufacturing a CarbonPositive future – where buildings, developments, and entire cities are constructed to use sustainable resources, generate surplus renewable energy, and convert atmospheric carbon into durable materials and products. CarbonPositive’20 showcased innovative materials and advanced construction methods, the latest design tools and best practices, and leading-edge policy efforts and planning practices. Now, we’re translating the momentum and knowledge generated and shared at CarbonPositive’20 into immediate action, commitment, and clear next steps.
With global economic recovery efforts and stimulus packages centered on infrastructure investment, the coming years will provide a critical opportunity to design and build for resilience and emissions reduction.
We remain in a critical race against time. On Feb. 20, 2007, Architecture 2030 hosted the first emergency global teach-in, the 2010 Imperative, which injected energy, practical knowledge, and a sense of urgency into the climate change movement. It had more than 250,000 participants worldwide.
Teach-ins were pioneered by anti-war, racial justice, and labor activists generations ago, and the opportunity to leverage this format to again reach tens of thousands of our colleagues worldwide allows us to assess and reset our priorities and actions for the built environment—including providing practical solutions for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Such a platform allows us to collaborate to carry out the real work of transformation: creating affordable clean energy and zero-carbon buildings and housing, designing walkable communities with free access to recreational areas, reframing our approach to buildings and infrastructure so that they act as carbon sinks, and supporting forest and biodiversity recovery.
The CarbonPositive Reset! 1.5°C Global Teach-In is scheduled as a full-day event that will be held three times in September, each one targeted to a different global region. Together, we can make the 1.5°C target a reality.