Extreme weather events across the globe over the last few weeks and months have pushed the drive to net zero carbon right to the top of the political agenda and COP26 arrives at a pivotal point in the fight to mitigate against climate change.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the issues facing us, but everyone has a moral duty to take whatever action is available to them to tackle climate change. The social housing movement in the UK and beyond is ideally placed to show leadership in this fight.

The issues facing the social housing sector mirror many of the wider environmental issues COP26 seeks to address. We have too many people living in cold, poorly insulated and environmentally inefficient homes exacerbating fuel poverty for their occupants. The current focus on the climate change crisis provides a unique opportunity to the social housing sector to demonstrate leadership in tackling these types of issue. This needs leadership across three fields – 1. Policy, 2. Funding and 3. Technology. Applied together we can deliver new green homes, complete the long-needed retrofit revolution and contribute significantly to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.


We need strong, supporting and joined-up leadership and policy from central and local government, regulators, housing associations and other housing providers, investors finance providers, developers and other key stakeholders each committing to meeting or exceeding key net zero targets. We are seeing good progress in this regard but inevitably there is a lack of co-ordination and deluge of material. Ideally what we need is a single set of pledges committing all key stakeholders to the adoption of core principles and targets.


There continues to be strong investor and lender demand for sustainability and ESG principles, but this needs to become more mainstream and seen as a requirement for investment/finance as opposed to an added benefit focused on pricing. Investors and finance providers are in a key position to push the agenda in this regard.


We already have strong credentials in relation to building techniques such as modular construction and the adoption of the Passivhaus standard. These can cost more in terms of basic cost but need to be seen as being the minimum standard to be achieved rather than something to be aimed for if we are to contribute a real impact towards carbon zero

It is tempting to take the view that whatever we do will not be enough unless there is buy-in across the larger global economies, but we all have a duty to take what action we can, and in this regard, the social housing movement is better placed than most to deliver meaningful impact. COP26 provides the sector, both local and international, with an ideal opportunity to provide leadership on this critical issue.


Chris Dun