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Keep up to date with our activity at COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 30 November to 12 December 2023.

11 December 2023

This year, COP28 (Conference of the Parties) marks another milestone for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) as we continue our commitment to addressing the climate emergency.

Building on the success of our participation at COP26 and COP27, at COP28 we continue to showcase the pivotal role architects play in combating climate change.

With the built environment responsible for 37% of global energy-related carbon emissions, deep carbon reductions within the sector are crucial to reach net zero.

But to achieve this, governments must take decisive action, set ambitious targets, implement stringent building codes and integrate sustainability into planning systems. However, we also need a transformative shift in how buildings are designed and constructed.

We are delighted that our leading sustainability experts - Duncan Baker-Brown and Sumita Singha – will join RIBA President, Muyiwa Oki and RIBA Chief Executive, Valerie Vaughan-Dick, on the ground in Dubai.

Find out more about our activity below.

Speaking engagements

Find out more about RIBA's speaking engagements that our sustainability experts have been involved in.

Reimagining architecture: how architects are key to creating long-lasting, inclusive spaces

Thursday 7 December

RIBA President Muyiwa Oki's delivered the keynote address at Everything Architecture, delving into the importance of sustainability, net zero design, placemaking and community engagement.

RIBA/AIA COP28 reception

Thursday 7 December

During COP28, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and RIBA came together to celebrate our global cooperation and demonstrate the role that collaboration can play in promoting a more sustainable and equitable future through design.

Fostering empowerment and resilience in the building sector

Friday 8 December

This session shared how different organisations are accelerating decarbonisation and resilience in the building sector through offering holistic education or upskilling programmes, establishing guidance and databases, and promoting relevant practices.

RIBA President Muyiwa Oki spoke, discussing how these initiatives increase the industry’s capacity to combat climate change.

Watch the recording.

Roundtable debate on the circular economy and decarbonisation of the buildings value chain

Friday 8 December

The Danish Society of Engineers (IDA) and the VELUX Group brought together industry leaders for a closed-door discussion on how circular business models, reducing resource use and limiting waste, are key for decarbonising the construction sector. RIBA CEO Valerie Vaughan-Dick attended the roundtable.

Did you miss the session? Watch it here.

Design thinking, global standards, and integrative solutions for a net zero built environment

Friday 8 December

This official United Nations side event brought together organisations from across the built environment spectrum to discuss the importance of creating standards for design, operations and accountability in the sector. CEO Valerie Vaughan-Dick joined the panel.

Design, materials and circularity in support of climate and nature objectives: driving the increased awareness into action

Saturday 9 December

This event encouraged participants to consider the embodied emissions of materials and buildings and to expedite circularity, aligning with climate and nature objectives. RIBA sustainability expert, Duncan Baker-Brown, was part of a panel delving into tangible solutions driving circularity and decarbonisation in the built environment.

Catch up on the session.

Private roundtable with the Climate Change Committee (CCC)

Saturday 9 December

RIBA Head of Policy and Public Affairs joined a private roundtable to discuss how businesses can input into the CCC’s work, including the upcoming 7th carbon budget and the wider role of business in the UK transition to a climate neutral, nature positive and socially-inclusive UK economy.

Building sustainability assessment tools: critical ingredient to decarbonise built environment 

Saturday 9 December

This session discussed different sustainability assessment tools and how these tools can be improved and developed. RIBA Council member and co-chair of the RIBA’s Climate Expert Advisory Group, Duncan Baker-Brown, spoke about our work on the UK Net Zero Carbon Building Standard and the role that governments can play to help embed sustainability into policy.  

Watch the recording.

Check back throughout COP28 for more updates on our events and highlights from the conference.

Sumita Singha at COP28

Updates from RIBA Head of Policy & Public Affairs, Phoebe MacDonald  

Monday 11 December

As another COP draws to a close, we are starting to see what the final text of the Global Stocktake might look like – and it’s not positive. The latest draft text was published with the reference to a full phase out of fossil fuels scrapped, causing outrage from many countries and climate experts across the globe.

However, the draft text does contain the first mention of fossil fuels in any COP declaration (in the past it has been just coal) and calls on parties to take action that “could” include “reducing both consumption and production of fossil fuels, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, so as to achieve net zero by, before or around 2050, in keeping with the science.”

With only hours until the end of COP28, the world is watching.

Sunday 10 December

The day begun with a briefing from senior Department of Energy Security and Net Zero officials updating us on the progress of negotiations. While we won’t know the final outcome until the end of the COP28 – the UK and many other countries are collaborating to try and ensure we deliver progress on phasing out fossil fuels.

With the COP28 President clearly stating that the negotiations will close on the 12th December (historically negotiations overrun by a couple of days) it draws a clear line in the sand for countries to agree a position.

Despite many new pledges announced at COP28 – including tripling renewables, increasing energy efficiency and reducing methane emissions – the International Energy Agency announced this won’t be enough on to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If all the countries signed up to these new pledges delivered their commitments, we would only save about a third of the emissions needed to meet the Paris Agreement targets. There is clearly more work to do be done.

Saturday 9 December

Another busy day in the Blue Zone for us with RIBA council member and chair of our expert advisory group on climate action, Duncan Baker-Brown, taking the stage in the Buildings Pavilion. The session focused on how reaching net zero won’t come about without collaboration across the built environment. Joining him in the session was experts from the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, and the Finnish and German governments.

Duncan also joined a second session on the role that different tools play in improving the sustainability of the built environment. The role of government and how we have been engaging with them on the issue of embodied carbon and planning reform were also discussed.

I joined a private roundtable with the chief executive of the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), Chris Stark, where we discussed the upcoming seventh Carbon Budget and the sixth Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA). Chris spoke about the integral role of business in reaching net zero and how we could support these vital pieces of work. The role that regulation plays in providing certainty for businesses and the role of local authorities were also debated.

Friday 8 December

This morning, RIBA President Muyiwa Oki joined a panel in the Buildings Pavilion on the role of empowerment and resilience in the built environment. The knowledge sharing work we are doing with the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA) and how we are improving our members' climate literacy was the focus of the conversation.

RIBA Chief Executive Valerie Vaughan-Dick echoed these points at our official UN side event. In collaboration with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Australian Forestry Products Association (AFPA), ASHRAE and EPD International, how we must all work together to reach net zero was the focus of the panel. Valerie also joined a roundtable hosted by Velux on the circular economy and decarbonisation of the buildings' value chain.

Outside of participating in events, the news was that the UK was one of 17 countries signing up to advancing policies and approaches that support the use of timber in the built environment. This positive announcement builds on the work that we have been doing with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the timber in construction roadmap. The role that timber can play in reducing the embodied carbon of a building has been a key driver of our work.

Wednesday 6 December 

It’s urbanisation and built environment (and transport and multilevel action) day at COP. The team on the ground, RIBA President Muyiwa Oki and Nell Brown, Senior Policy Advisor, started the day with a private briefing from the Director for International Climate Change at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

Taking place in the UK Pavilion, the government provided an update on how global negotiations and the ‘global stocktake’ were going so far. The global stocktake is a process for countries to see where they’re collectively making progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement – and where they’re not – then take action to ensure we are meeting our targets.  

Our delegation also attended various built environment events across the day, with the highlight being the launch of the Buildings Breakthrough, which sets a target to ensure “near-zero emission and resilient buildings are the new normal by 2030.”

Signed by the UK, 26 other countries and the European Union, the target covers both new and existing buildings and requires energy-efficient buildings with a low carbon footprint that consider a whole lifecycle approach.

It also requires buildings to integrate specific solutions to ensure they can withstand a changing climate. The Buildings Breakthrough define the “new normal” to mean that these concepts are common in buildings both through formal (legislation) and semi-formal (standards) means.   

Tuesday 5 December

We are almost at the halfway point of COP28, and a draft of the negotiating text on the global stocktake has been published. We are seeing some progress but on big decisions, many are still to be made. On phasing out (versus phasing down) of fossil fuels, currently, language remains included in the text that would require countries to phase out, but this could still be watered down or removed completely.

There are also positive references about countries needing to improve their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of our global long term goals.

NDCs outline national goals for GHG emissions reductions and embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. However, our Built for the Environment report highlighted that only 20% of countries include building energy codes in their NDCs.

We have been advocating for built environment actions in NDCs to include both new and existing buildings and ensure they align with net zero and science-based goals.

New analysis by Friends of the Earth has revealed that the UK government might miss the targets they have committed to under the Paris Agreement. The research shows that under current policies the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 59% lower in 2030 than in 1900.

However, the UK has said it will reduce its emissions by 68% by 2030 – therefore falling short if action is not taken. Given this commitment was made at COP26, hosted by the UK in Glasgow, failure to meet the targets is likely to be taken badly on the global stage.

Monday 4 December

The first four days of COP28 have seen a commitment of $57 billion (USD) in climate finance from governments, businesses, investors and philanthropies the COP28 Presidency announced – not a bad start to finance day. While falling short of global investment needs, this willingness to increase climate capital around the world is positive.

The first ever climate resilient debt clauses were announced by the UK. Global and regional banks also joined the pledge, which will expand the use of climate resilient debt clauses in their lending, which means pausing debt when countries are hit by natural disasters.

Today didn’t just focus on finance – the importance of gender equality and inclusion in climate action were discussed. The COP28 Presidency launched the Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership, endorsed by 68 parties, including the UK.

The partnership includes a package of commitments on finance, data and equal opportunities. We know that a just transition to net zero can advance gender equality. However, much more needs to be done to open up opportunities for women to be involved in shaping the green economy.

Sunday 3 December

With most global leaders heading back home– it’s time to get down to business, with negotiators hashing out the final details of a deal over 10 days.

Today’s theme was health and was the first day ever dedicated to health at a climate summit. The World Health Organization (WHO) were on a mission to make policymakers understand that “the climate crisis is a health crisis”.

This echoes our 2021 report published ahead of COP26, Built for the Environment, which highlights that there are enormous social, economic, health, and wellbeing benefits to shifting to a sustainable built environment.

For example, improving the energy efficiency of our buildings can reduce the negative health impacts of both overheating and leaky, cold homes; addressing indoor and outdoor air quality can reduce instances of illness; and green spaces can improve mental health. Investing in sustainability can also create new green jobs and help alleviate fuel poverty.

It’s also been a busy few days on the ground in Dubai. We’ve been attending events and speaking to global leaders and politicians including Humza Yousaf, First Minister of Scotland, former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and chair of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and Member of Parliament, Philip Dunne.

Saturday 2 December

Energy was the unofficial theme of day three with announcements on increasing renewable and nuclear energy and some countries moving away from fossil fuels.

Led by the European Union, United States (US) and UAE, over 110 countries have agreed to triple the world’s capacity of renewable energy by 2030. This includes increasing the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements from around 2% to over 4% every year until 2030. A positive announcement to help spur on retrofitting our building stock.

The US joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance and committed to closing all its coal-fired power plants. With the third largest number of coal-burning power stations globally, the move has been seen as “huge news” and puts pressure on other countries such as China, Australia and Japan.

They also announced new rules to cut methane emissions. Finally, 22 countries, including the UK and US, pledged to triple the use of nuclear by 2050.

Friday 1 December

Day two is underway and more than 130 heads of state and government have gathered in Dubai for the World Climate Action Summit. Opening the session, King Charles, noted that 2023 was the hottest year on record.

He pointed out that “records are now being broken so often that we are perhaps becoming immune to what they are really telling us. We need to pause to process what this actually means: we are taking the natural world outside balanced norms and limits, and into dangerous, uncharted territory.”

UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, also made a speech outlining that “the world needs to do more to tackle climate change” and “we’re not moving quickly or effectively enough.”

In his speech, Sunak also announced £1.6 billion for renewable energy, green innovation and forests. However, there are still questions if the UK is going fast enough following the government’s net zero announcements in September. Find out more about what the announcements mean.

Turning to funding, world leaders agree to adopt the 'UAE Declaration on a New Global Climate Finance Framework' which will help to guide new models of delivering climate finance that make it available accessible, and affordable. This will be crucial in helping emerging economies with the large-scale investments needed to transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient global economy. In addition, further contributions to the loss and damage fund announced yesterday came forward.

Thursday 30 November  

Over a year has passed since the conclusion of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt and now we are in Dubai, UAE for COP28.  

The summit started with some concerning news. The World Meteorological Organisation said 2023 would be the hottest year ever recorded. António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, responded to this announcement, saying “we are living through climate collapse in real time.” This information sets the backdrop for the two week summit and puts pressure on leaders and countries to act.  

We know the climate has already changed and will continue to do so – that’s why loss and damage is a key issue to be tackled in Dubai. Loss and damage are the destructive impacts of climate change that cannot be or have not been avoided and often the countries suffering most are the countries that have contributed least to the climate emergency.

After many years of discussing funding to help address these issues, day one saw significant developments take place. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) pledged $100 million to the loss and damage fund, with the UK, EU, US and Japan also making contributions.   

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