Directors Message - 30 July 2019

I am writing this message from the United Kingdom (UK) where earlier this year MPs in the UK Parliament approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency. The motion called on the government to aim to achieve net-zero emissions before 2050, and for ministers to outline urgent proposals within the next six months, to restore the UK's natural environment and deliver a "zero waste economy". It is important to note however that both the Welsh and Scottish governments had already declared a climate emergency, along with dozens of British towns and cities, including Manchester and London.

Around the same time the United Nation’s Global Assessment Report revealed that a million species are at risk of extinction, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and only 3% of the world’s oceans are free from human pressure – flagging the risks associated with biodiversity loss and their equivalence to climate change.

Hopefully something that can be addressed by the UK Government mandating that new developments must deliver an overall increase in biodiversity. The biodiversity net gain mandate requires developers to ensure that habitats for wildlife are enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development. They must assess the type of habitat and its condition before submitting plans, and then demonstrate how they are improving biodiversity.

And more recently the Royal Institute of Bristish Architects’ (RIBA) trustees formally agreed to join the global declaration of an environment and climate emergency at the triannual meeting of RIBA Council members, the Institute also committed to developing the RIBA Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission’s action plan and a pledge to support the UK government’s 2050 net zero emissions target.  Australian architects have now joined the global movement to declare a climate emergency with thirty architects and practices becoming Australia’s founding signatories to acknowledge that “the twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss are the most serious issues of our time".

AILA CEO Tim Arnold has prepared a paper currently under consideration by AILA’s board, executives and relevant committees in relation to our Declaration of a Climate Emergency and we anticipate updating members shortly on our position.

It is in this dynamic context and building on AILA’s advocacy work across all levels of government over the last few years, that we recently launched AILA’s Green Infrastructure Position Statement. We need members to actively engage through your various forms of practice: client side, government, private practice and academic to help address biodiversity loss and the effects of climate change by maximising opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure into our built environment and to advance research into green infrastructure. We are also calling on members to help us expand the case studies listed in the first version of the position statement and look forward to hearing from you.

 

Claire Martin

AILA Director