J'aime la Terre

AIA and the design community react to Paris Agreement withdrawal

Environment National
AIA and design community react to Paris Agreement withdrawal. (Martin St-Amant/Wikimedia Commons)
AIA and design community react to Paris Agreement withdrawal. (Martin St-Amant/Wikimedia Commons)

In response to the Trump administration’s announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), as well as members of the design community, are releasing comments and statements in opposition to the decision.

Architects Advocate also penned an open letter urging members of the House of Representatives to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. We will continuously update this story as statements are submitted to The Architect’s Newspaper.

Thomas Vonier, FAIA, AIA President:

The United States must remain a leader in the battle to cease harmful and needless practices that damage the planet and its climate, acting out of both environmental concerns and national economic interests. Instead of helping our economy, as the Administration contends, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will put us behind our major global competitors.

The AIA will not retreat from its long-established efforts to conserve energy and to deploy renewable resources in buildings. We will continue to lead in efforts to curb the use of fuels and technologies that needlessly pollute our atmosphere and harm our environment. This makes good sense economically, and it is in the best interests of those we serve: our clients and the public.

We will also urge our members throughout the United States and the world to assist cities, states, organizations and citizen groups in meeting the aims of the climate accord.

By adhering to our values as a profession that is concerned with human habitat and the health of our environment, we will help to mitigate the harm this decision will do to our economy and to America’s stature across the globe.



Mahesh Ramanujam, president & CEO, U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC) and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI):

As many know the Paris Agreement, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), establishes voluntary actions to address greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change mitigation and adaptation—and 194 countries around the world are signatories. The United States government has an opportunity to lead on this and, in so doing, strengthen global partnerships, yet has chosen to walk away. We are deeply disappointed to learn of the Administration’s decision to withdraw from the historic Paris Agreement today.

We are facing an important crossroads and America must keep building. We need to keep building bridges and bonds and breaking barriers in the push for a sustainable future for all. While the pullout of the U.S. government from the Paris Agreement will be felt across the world, the surge of climate commitments and actions by the private sector, NGO’s, governments, cities and states, will only serve to strengthen the green building movement and keep pushing us forward.

For 24 years, USGBC has led the green building movement with a strong vision – that buildings, communities, and cities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within this generation. Today, our efforts continue unabated and with stronger than ever commitment and hope.

Yes, hope. We are hopeful for the future because we know that our movement is a community of 13 million strong and growing. We are encouraged by their continued commitment to build a sustainable future for all.

U.S. companies, including many USGBC members, are already working to address business risks from climate change and to adapt their businesses to domestic and global opportunities created around climate mitigation needs. Businesses and local governments are wisely seeking and investing in low-carbon fuels and technologies to stay on the cutting edge of the global economy. And with platforms like Arc, more and more companies and government entities are tracking their carbon emissions, committing to reduction targets, and taking action.

Right now, business as usual is no longer an option. With the work of our organization, our members, our volunteers and many others, we have reached the point where the transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable; but remains urgent. And all around us, we see that there are new leaders who are ready to rise, inspired by the promise of a brighter future for our children and for generations to come. They are the big corporations and small business owners, educators and innovators, scientists and activists, non-profit employees and policy makers, advocates and so many more who are working every day to change our world, definitively, for the better. To these leaders, green building is the key solution to pushing our built environment to be supportive and restorative of all life.

James Miner, AICP, Managing Principal, Sasaki:

It appears that the president has decided to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. We gathered as a firm just yesterday to discuss the importance of moving from intent to action. We also talked about the need to take a stand together at times when our collective values are being called into question. Now is one of those times.

As a community of designers that aspire to bring positive change to the world through the power of place, I would like to make clear that our position on climate change remains strong. As we all understand and appreciate, the topic of climate change is one that will far outlast the current political cycle. We cannot and will not change our stance towards responsible stewardship of our planet.

Read the full statement from Sasaki here.

Van Alen Institute

This past December, in response to the divisions revealed by the presidential election, we launched Crossroads Conversations on the Red Steps in Times Square. The program, which has since become a multipart series, invited people from all walks of life and political convictions to engage in a ten-minute conversation with a stranger. One participant, a young firefighter from New Orleans, introduced himself with, “I’m a Trump guy.” When the topic of climate change arose, his response was, “It’s undeniable. When you walk outside in Louisiana, you know this isn’t right.”

He continued to rattle off statistics about the escalating global temperature, emphasizing the need to address climate change on an international level. Though only a brief moment at the “Crossroads of the World,” the conversation highlighted how the broader national belief in the reality of climate change and faith in science, particularly among younger generations, can overcome last week’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords amid ongoing partisan divide. We can envision a future in which climate change is no longer a politicized issue, in the same way the issue doesn’t divide populations in other countries, where scientific research is the foundation of collective goals.

Van Alen Institute’s work in the young firefighter’s home state of Louisiana has renewed our commitment to developing projects that address climate change issues in communities around the world. In that particular region, we served as a key partner with the Environmental Defense Fund and BuroHappold Engineering on Changing Course, a design competition that launched in 2011 to envision a more sustainable Lower Mississippi River Delta; the competition’s findings are now informing regional master plans. Of course, our approach to climate change goes far beyond the Gulf Coast.

Back in our own region, we served as a lead partner on Rebuild by Design, an initiative of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region, and develop fundable solutions to better protect residents from future climate events.

We invite you to browse all of our climate-related work here.

[Statement from the Van Alen Institute continues on vanalen.org]

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