Climate Optimism and the Building Blocks for Equality
Given the build-up surrounding COP26 and the outcome being regarded by many as underwhelming – not least the criticism over the lack of representation – it can be very easy to feel despondent when thinking about the mammoth task ahead of us. But it is not all doom and gloom and there is much to be optimistic about.
A new generation of activists of all ages and backgrounds are driving change and holding governments, businesses, and the public to account, and best of all they’re finally being listened to. Conversations around the severity of climate change, what needs to be done, and how it can be done are now permeating all corners of life on a scale as never before.
We are finally separating climate change from just ‘science and nature’ and seeing it for how interdependent and intertwined with every single aspect of society it is, whether that be economics, housing, communities, health – the list goes on. This allows us to consider the inequality of climate change, helped by publications such as the ‘Inequality in a Future Wales’ report by the Future Generations Commissioner.
Sadly, some will feel the impacts of climate change far more acutely than others, and unsurprisingly the heaviest burden is likely to fall on those who have contributed the least to current emissions. Recognising these inequalities and the extent of the work that needs to be done gives us a unique opportunity to almost start from scratch and re-set the dial, addressing many of the equality issues we face as a housing sector.
Retrofit projects and new developments can be designed and implemented with community consultation, enabling us to not only respond to the needs of the people we serve, but build community engagement, trust and resilience. Creating tenant and community climate networks can increase community cohesion, bridging existing divides and ensuring all voices and opinions are heard. The power this has is evident with the recent Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly – the first of its kind in Wales which brought together a representation of people from various demographics to answer the question of ‘what should and can be done?’. The recommendations taken forward from this assembly included training people to work in sustainability focused roles and ensuring that all new stock is built using the latest sustainable technologies.
New housing stock can be built to be inclusive of all backgrounds and communities, addressing issues of overcrowding and lack of housing for multigenerational living. Consulting with disabled people during the development process can ensure homes are accessible and appropriate in size, but crucial details are not overlooked.
New stock and retrofit projects can provide warmer, more insulated homes, incorporating green and renewable energy sources to help alleviate fuel poverty whilst simultaneously reducing emissions.
Most importantly, these ideas aren’t just pipe dreams – they are very tangible possibilities. The recently announced Co-Operation agreement between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru sets out an amplified ambition for Wales to be net-zero by 2035, 15 years ahead of the UK 2050 commitment. This, combined with the announcement of a White Paper on the right to adequate housing, can ensure that everyone has sustainable and good quality housing that considers diverse needs.
The climate crisis is predicted to displace 1.2 billion people by 2050 due to droughts, rising sea levels and other extreme weather events. The countries facing the worst effects are those who have contributed the least to emissions and furthermore have received the least support to effectively respond to the impacts caused by the emissions of the Global North. As one of the world’s largest emitters we have a responsibility to provide refuge for displaced people and build on our work in becoming a Nation of Sanctuary, welcoming some of those who have been displaced due to climate change and providing safe
The time to address the climate crisis is now and it’s crucial we ensure an equitable response. This way, no one gets left behind in the race to green.
Not only do we have the tools to build our response to the climate crisis as a nation, but we also have a rare opportunity to build it on an even, equitable foundation. There is almost a feverish optimism for the future: it really does feel like a pivotal moment in not only tackling the climate crisis, but also building a better and more inclusive world.
What are we waiting for?