As the United Nations Climate Change Summit, known as COP 26, gets underway this week, DIALOG reflects on the challenges we collectively face to keep the most severe impacts of climate change at bay.
This past summer the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first part of its sixth Assessment Report (AR6), The Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. The report incorporates the most current, state-of-the-world understanding of the science behind our changing climate. It sent shockwaves through the scientific community with its declaration that the climate has already crossed a tipping point, and the warming of the planet will continue to intensify over the next few decades. We’ve already caused a 1.1 degree Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase since the industrial revolution, which has directly caused the ongoing string of worsening, natural disasters that have wrought havoc across the globe in recent years.
The impact of this change – ranging somewhere between moderate and catastrophic – will be determined by what we do now. We’re no longer trying to stave off climate change; that ship has sailed. We are trying to prevent it from widespread devastation (or, if you follow more extreme perspectives, from human extinction).
In short: if we didn’t feel an urgency around climate change before, this is the moment to step up. Immediate and sustained reductions to greenhouse gas emissions is the only viable path forward.
The building sector’s impact has been well documented, contributing to about 40% of emissions globally. Our role must be twofold: first, drastically reduce emissions; and second, create buildings and cities that will be able to adapt to future climate conditions. Local and state or provincial governments are quickly becoming welcome partners in advancing these goals. Both San Francisco and British Columbia, for example, are implementing extensive climate resilience and adaptation policies, strategies and programs that will impact some or all future built work in their jurisdictions.
DIALOG was a signatory to the COP 26 Communiqué, urging COP participants to commit to immediate and aggressive levels of emissions reduction. We join more than sixty other companies across North America, collectively representing more than $300 billion USD of annual construction value.
DIALOG has a wide range of projects and initiatives aligned with these goals. Earlier this year, DIALOG became a Climate Smart Certified business. Our work towards the AIA 2030 Commitment and the SE 2050 Commitment is pushing down the operational and embodied carbon emissions of a broad swath of our projects. Several of our projects are at the leading edge of net zero carbon design, including two – the MacKimmie Complex and the Arthur Meighen Building Renovation – in CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program. Internally we have also identified formal processes that can help our teams to better design for climate resilience and adaptation.
Unfortunately, the recent AR6 research has eliminated any possible doubt that we might escape climate change completely. What comes next is up to all of us. It will take a global effort change our current trajectory, but DIALOG is ready.
Written by Mara Baum, DIALOG Partner