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Climate change: What has it got to do with the housing sector?

14 Oct 2021

Climate change: What has it got to do with the housing sector?

WRITTEN BY PROFESSOR DAVID ADAMSON OBE

Households account for approximately 20% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, with energy use being the primary contributor. The Australian government's Your Home website provides some useful recommendations on how to reduce the household carbon footprint.

The general built environment is also a major contributor with the operational component of a building contributing 28% of its GHG emissions and the embedded component derived from the building process a further 11%. CHOs manage a distributed built environment based largely on households and are in a strong position to reduce the CO2 loading that the housing portfolio creates, along with its operational premises and offices. Direct physical measures, especially for new build projects, but also including retrofit measures, can reduce the operational carbon footprint of every building.

Furthermore, we can support tenants to reduce their environmental impact. Recycling, reduced water use and changed household consumption patterns make a major reduction given the average Australian household creates up to 18 tonnes of CO2 each year. The reduced costs achieved also make a direct contribution to poverty alleviation. Equally CHOs can alter the carbon output of key service components including energy sourcing for common areas and business premises, fleet operation and staff travel. Where direct savings are not possible, carbon offsetting allows compensatory purchase from the many carbon offsetting schemes available.

None of this happens by itself and requires strategic planning and integration of the SDGs in operational plans. Agenda 2030 provides nearly a decade to organise our impact. This spans multiple planning cycles of most organisations and developing an SDG strategy for the decade that works alongside shorter strategic planning periods provides an excellent framework to design, measure, evaluate and fine tune the organisation’s contribution to the Decade of Action.

The final observation to make is that climate change is increasingly seen as a major risk that boards need to consider as a core component of their risk mitigation strategy. The AICD published guidance on climate change and governance in 2016. In Climate Change and Good Corporate Governance the AICD identifies that climate change aware boards understand the risks and accept that action is required immediately. 

Adopting a Sustainable Development Goals Strategy demonstrates organisational awareness of risk and proof of action to mitigate risk. Having now undertaken a process of SDG alignment with two CHOs I know the exercise places the organisation in a stronger business position to understand the risks posed by climate change. It also motivates staff to become involved in a change process that will place the organisation amongst those that can look back in 2030 and be proud of their contribution to this vital global process of carbon reduction and climate change mitigation.

Get in touch if you would like to starting your organisational SDG journey, and join the growing commitment to Agenda 2030 and the Decade of Action.


Professor David Adamson OBE is Compass Housing Services’ Group Chief Strategic Engagement Officer. He manages Compass’ international development activities, Compass consultancy services, and advocacy for social housing reform. He also steers Compass’ commitment to promoting and achieving the SDGs, is an Emeritus Professor at the University of South Wales, and an Honorary Professor at the University of Newcastle.

This article was first published by theahi.com.au

 

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