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COP26: Climate proof housing for all is a realistic ambition

Key messages from social and affordable housing providers on how we can reach the compelling 1.5 degrees

Glasgow & Online, 10 November 2021 | Published in Future of the EU & Housing

Three major takeaway messages continue ringing in our heads after the Housing Europe network and the #Housing2030 report travelled to Glasgow physically and virtually for COP26, the world's annual biggest event dedicated to climate change.

The #Housing2030 report can help to point the way for policymakers.The first one came from Housing Europe's President, Bent Madsen who stressed that despite the sector's recentlly set ambition to renovate 4 million homes by 2030, social and affordable housing providers estimate that an additional €13 billion will be needed each year, on top of over €20 billion that we have already committed, in order to meet our 4 million homes target.

"We cannot meet net-zero without decarbonising our homes. The good news is that we can do it and we have demonstrated that today. Doing it does not just help the planet, it creates economic opportunities, it is a brilliant opportunity for a mix of public and private actors. Decarbonsing our homes has the potential to help us meet the compelling target of 1.5 degrees. With the right national leadership and the right local leadership, we can do this. We don't have an alternative," David Orr, the Co-Chair of our joint #Housing2030 report emphasised shortly after.

We also heard from Sally Thomas, the CEO of Scottish member, SFHA said that over half of Scotland's social housing stock already achieves a good level of energy efficiency and that the members of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations are determined to drive further these ambitions, but also grapling with challenges to ensure tenants can still pay their rent after renovation. She drew three lessons from the great work in social housing in Aberdeen - to make policies that recognise the poorest in our society, to put importance on the upgrading of the existing stock, as well as on building new homes, and to make strong partnerships essential part of the working process.

Professor Holger Wallbaum, the main writer of the #Housing2030 climate sustainability chapter called on governments to establish national strategies, promote energy efficient homes, use financing, fiscal and regulatory rules, and to use building resources wisely. Saying that the #Housing2030 report builds capacities and demonstrates how responsible governance can ensure people and the planet are the focus, the lead writer Julie Lawson reminded that over 70 policy tools remain available to local, regional, national and global policy leaders to reform housing.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal said, climate mitigation should protect rather than harm people who live in precarious situations. 'We are all affected, we need to hit the pause button and re-evaluate the way we think about quality of life.'

Watch again this session from 4th November, co-organised by UNECE, UN-Habitat, Housing Europe and supported by the City of Glasgow.

Only a couple of days later, on 9th November, our President joined another COP26 session, this time organised by the the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) which asked 'Is social the new green?' and how we can connect climate action and social investment. 'Welfare states need to take an investment approach, seeing funding and financing of home retrofits as investing in the future and in inclusive cities that bring people to the labour market." He went on to saying that "when we focus on the green side and the green taxonomy, we have to focus on the most optimal solutions as following a too prescriptive path risks diverting us from delivering." On the other hand, looking at social taxonomy, social and affordable homes must be seen as an investment hub, Bent Madsen further added. 

We could not agree more with Isabelle Brun, Head of the Strategic Development Division of the CEB who underlined that 'financing of the social sector is still seen as spending instead of investment' and also that the COVID-19 health pandemic has clearly proved the opposite, making the need of a paradigm shift very evident. Lastly, the Communications Officer at the Bank, Jelica Vesic brought the #Housing2030 report as an example of a successful tool that looks into how the authoritities can approach taxation policy that is driven by green and social ambitions. Find the recording of the session here.