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We must join forces to tackle climate change

– 4 min read

In a month that has seen more than 100 world leaders attend COP26, the power of collaboration has been reinforced. Climate change is the greatest risk facing all of us and can’t be tackled in silo.  

In housing, bold and serious changes are required to cut carbon emissions. As well as building new homes that meet the Government’s zero carbon targets, we must find solutions for retrofitting our existing stock to ensure it performs to the required levels.    

This is a huge and complex task. Out of the UK’s 29 million homes, two thirds do not meet the energy efficiency standards set by the Government. In England alone, 11 million properties fail to meet EPC band C. On that basis, it is predicted that two homes would have to be retrofitted every minute between now and 2050 to address the issue.   

Achieving more together 

There is an urgent need to learn from each other and find practical solutions to achieving a zero-carbon future. Against the backdrop of COP26, we are hosting a fringe event on 10 November 2021 to help educate and inform people on the reality of transitioning to net zero and connect those with the ambition to turn ideas into action.  

We have partnered with Unlock Net Zero and Wheatley Group to deliver the event which is centred around the main themes of COP26 – collaboration, adaptation, mitigation, and finance. The day will bring together key names in housing, finance, energy, government, and the built environment to share ideas, knowledge and initiatives. 

Jonathon Porritt, a sustainability campaigner, will discuss mitigating our impact on the planet, sharing his expertise on how to accelerate the transition to net zero.  Discussions will follow on adapting to protect our places, and mobilising finance to secure net zero.  

Attendees will also be offered a tour of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which demonstrates how a place, sport and sustainability can combine to address the changing climate. 

Amplifying the Youth Voice 

Involving young people in the green agenda is another crucial element in the fight against the climate crisis.  That is why Places for People is joining forces with the Youth Charter to give the next generation a voice in climate change discussions and help them to influence decision making. 

The partnership will see us form a new network called ‘Unlock Next Gen’ to engage young people in the climate change challenge. This builds on the the success of the Unlock Net Zero hub - a network of senior experts in housing and sustainability. 

The ambition is for Unlock Next Gen to become a community where young people are united in the goal to raise awareness of environmental sustainability in our homes, places and communities. The first objective is to create a pledge and set of commitments for the network.  

We will also update the Youth Charter ‘carbonwise’ education pack and fund an interactive app to engage young tenants and residents, which will be rolled out to all UK social landlords. In tandem, we want to drive engagement across the UK’s education system and use the Commonwealth Games to make this pack accessible to an international audience of young people.  

Our collaboration with the Youth Charter and launch of Unlock Next Gen will be officially launched at our fringe event. During the same session, we will explore further ideas on how to engage and educate people on climate change. This will include the importance of listening to the next generation to learn and understand what they want from their homes, places and communities. 

Focusing on the how 

We will be inviting others to support Unlock Next Gen through the Future Homes Consortium, which was formed earlier this year and continues to grow. There are currently 14 housing associations in the Group, which are helping to address climate change, sustainability, and delivering homes that meet the required targets. More will be joining us, including the Northern Homes Consortium, which is made up of housing associations, local authorities and arm’s length management organisations.  

With a focus on practical change, the Future Homes Consortium meets monthly to share data, best practice, and initiatives around the environmental agenda. This includes lessons learned through research and pilots involving new technologies as well as strategies aimed at cutting carbon emissions in existing homes.  

ESG evolution 

Across the housing sector, it is vital that we demonstrate the impact of our environmental commitments as part of our environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies. 

At Places for People, our purpose is to create and manage living places that are sustainable – economically, socially and environmentally. We have always strived to make a positive difference and this has seen our activities, and how we measure them, evolve along the long way.  

These changes are reflected in our ESG report for 2021. We have adopted the Certified Sustainable Housing Label (CSHL) from Ritterwald, which independently validates our work and demonstrates our credentials.  

We have also implemented a new methodology to establish our ESG priorities, measured against the CSHL. From an environmental perspective, improving the energy efficiency of our homes and providing more sustainable living environments for customers are key focus areas in our environmental strategy.   

Time to act 

No single government, organisation, or technology will deliver decarbonisation. Now, more than ever, we must work together to find solutions, form new partnerships and explore initiatives that will deliver a zero carbon future.  

From the impact of research and new technologies through to improving engagement, securing funding, and enhancing ESG strategies, there is huge potential to learn from each other – and no time to waste.

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