4,860 for, 312 against, and 28 abstaining: It’s Time for Action on Climate Change

By Eric West, AIA AIA Minnesota President

In June, AIA National held its annual conference in Las Vegas, a city that exemplifies AIA National’s commitment to sustainable, resilient and inclusive communities (sarcasm intended). During the business meeting a climate change resolution was brought to the floor.

Resolution 19-11: Resolution for Urgent and Sustained Climate Action recommends three actions to the AIA Board of Directors:

  • Declare an urgent climate imperative for carbon reduction.
  • Transform the day-to-day practice of architects to achieve a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient and a healthy built environment by adopting the AIA Framework for Design Excellence.
  • Align and utilize our external messaging to leverage support of our peers, clients, policymakers, and the public at large.

After a convincing vote of support, voters funneled out of the air-conditioned convention center into 105-degree heat. Throughout the remainder of the conference there were very good conversations about community building, attracting the next generation of architects, meetings with vendors about the latest technologies, seminars about the business of architecture, and presentations by award-winning designers, to mention just a few of the many interesting activities that are part of the conference.

On the way home, I began to think about how the lessons of the conference could be transferrable to actions at AIA Minnesota. It occurred to me that the discussion around climate change needs to impact every one of our actions. It needs to apply to our efforts in K-12 engagement, government affairs and discussions of current and future codes. We need our design awards to respond to climate change along with our discussion of equity, diversity and inclusion. Climate change discussions should impact every one of our knowledge communities and committees. To move the needle, we need to inspire each of our current members to be a leader in their community, pushing for action addressing climate change.    

We already have many champions in our membership, and we thank each of them for their efforts. That said, sometimes they make it easier for me to continue with business as usual, addressing the other myriad issues impacting our profession and our communities.

We have been discussing sustainability for thirty years and we have not made the progress needed. The only way we have a chance is to treat this like the urgent imperative that climate change represents. In Minnesota, we may not be seeing the impact of climate change daily. That does not make it any less imperative for our organization.

Our 2018-2020 strategic workplan references sustainability, particularly related to 21stCentury Development, but the plan does not directly address the urgency of climate change. This should change as we chart a course now and beyond 2020.

We have a responsibility to act and an opportunity to play a significant leadership role. If we do not act as a leader in this regard, who will?


View the full July issue of Matrix.