The United Nations climate summit, COP25, starts today in the Spanish city of Madrid where climate leaders will push to scale up action and investments into rapidly reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and support broader sustainable development agendas, specifically addressing social inequity.
More than half the world now live in cities and that is projected to rise to 70% of earth’s population by 2050. But rapid and unplanned urbanisation presents dire human and environmental consequences. Urbanisation has a heavy carbon footprint, so ensuring that cities of the future are sustainable is one of the most pressing priorities facing us.
Leading contributor to greenhouse gas
The construction sector is a leading contributor to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions accounting for almost 40% of the world’s total CO2 emissions. This makes it one of the world’s least environmentally friendly industries.
Climate change is predicted to have an exponential impact on the urban poor, especially through an increase in the number and intensity of climate-related disasters. Cyclone Idai devastated central Mozambique earlier this year and was the second deadliest tropical cyclone on record, leaving 1,300 people dead and Mozambique’s second largest city Beira in ruins.
Our partners, Casa Real, demonstrated effective climate-resilient construction with all its houses surviving the cyclone’s onslaught when 90% of the city’s buildings were destroyed.
Opportunity to mitigate climate change
We know there is a growing global housing deficit and there are 300 million affordable homes that need to be built by 2030. There is a huge opportunity to mitigate climate change in conjunction with providing affordable housing, such as introducing renewable energy into every new home which could stimulate an enormous market in sustainable building materials.
According to recent research by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, implementing low-cost technologies and energy-saving measures in India’s housing construction industry could reduce upfront energy use by 24%, reduce CO2 emissions by up to 17% and reduce financial costs by up to 18%.
Reall, the UK government and industry infrastructure leaders could play a pivotal role in transforming this vast, multi-trillion-dollar affordable housing and infrastructure industry to become climate smart and innovate green energy solutions, materials, construction methods and standards which are both resilient and sustainable.
Adoption of greener practices
Because housing construction is responsible for such a large chunk of global carbon emissions it also means there is huge potential for a large global CO2 reduction with the adoption of greener practices.
With support from Sida and DFID, Reall are pioneering the construction of climate-smart $10k homes in Africa and Asia that could addresses many of humanities greatest challenges. We need to crowd in investors, governments, developers and researchers across the whole housing value chain to tackle current market barriers and scale up low carbon alternative solutions, showcasing the potential synergies for climate compatible development.
Delivering affordable solutions that reduce emissions
Our African and Asian partners have an established track record in delivering affordable solutions that reduce emissions, build community resilience and promote development – especially for women and girls who are disproportionally hard hit by climate change.
Our partners are trialling innovations such as eco bricks, which replace traditional fired clay bricks that consume significantly more trees and natural resources. Also building with local, sustainable materials like internal bamboo walls and insulated roofs. They are also beginning to integrate bio-gas waste treatment and solar power.
Reall are focusing in on six African and Asian countries where we aim to make a major impact on the housing market including demonstrating and integrating these climate smart techniques into standard building methods.
Humanity stands at an environmental crossroad
There are massive challenges ahead. We must radically raise environmental housing standards without compromising financial accessibility. The global affordable housing crisis can be framed as an unprecedented challenge or unparalleled opportunity. It is, in fact, both.
But as humanity stands at an environmental crossroad, building a home for human potential isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.