Climate Change Commission urges government, private sector to invest in climate-resilient social housing

The Climate Change Commission (CCC) is urging the government and the business community to tap into the potential of the construction sector to fight climate change by investing in affordable, sustainable and resilient housing and buildings.

Underscoring the importance of the buildings sector in climate change mitigation and adaptation, CCC vice chair Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman said the industry could easily and effectively enable cities to make significant climate contributions.

“The buildings sector has an oversized environmental footprint. More than 30 percent of global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions are buildings-related, and emissions could double by 2050 if we carry on business as usual in a time of rapid urbanization and explosive demographics,” de Guzman said in a speech delivered during a climate change forum with the business and finance sectors, held in Makati City on Tuesday.

In the Philippines, he said, the buildings sector and social housing can be transformed through its Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), which seeks to cut by 70 percent the country’s GHG emissions across major economic sectors.

He said the country will be able to reduce and ultimately phase out GHG emissions produced by the buildings sector by transforming the way buildings are designed, built and operated.

“The social sector housing needs to provide access to low-cost yet resilient homes to ensure security and safety for occupants. The design, construction and operation of today’s houses and buildings need to incorporate and address concerns of adaptation to climate change,” de Guzman said.

He noted that for a start, the government should revisit the country’s 38-year-old National Shelter Program (NSP) to make it more responsive to climate change.

“It will be worthwhile for this forum to revisit the [NSP], a housing initiative undertaken by the national government as early as 1978—a very long time ago when climate change was not yet a global issue,” he said.

The NSP was created with the aim of increasing the housing stock for half of the nation’s poorest population. The program called for the direct production of housing units by government and the provision of public funds to encourage the private sector to produce social housing developments.

“Is the NSP being continued today? Are current government housing units being built to climate change standards? Do the community plans include green environment and green infrastructure? We should find out about current public housing projects in order to make them NAMAs-oriented, climate-resilient and green,” de Guzman pointed out.

“Let us have no doubt that NAMAs can work for us to overcome investment barriers. Above all, NAMAs can help us bring about the transformational change we badly need in our society as we strive—together with our global partners—to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Remember, we ‘need 1.5 to stay alive and thrive’,” he added.

De Guzman said the buildings sector offers one of the most cost-effective and economically beneficial paths for reducing energy demand and associated emissions while supporting adaptation and resilience to climate change.

“The economic, health and social benefits of sustainable buildings are significant. Buildings provide shelter, places to live, work, learn and socialize, directly affecting our daily lives,” he explained.

“Providing more than 50 percent of global wealth, and one of the largest employers at the local level, this sector also offers a path to poverty alleviation.”

The forum, “Climate Change Forum with Private and Finance Sectors Involvement in NAMAs”, was the product of the 2015 Manila Declaration on Climate Change, which is the business sector’s response to the global imperative of reducing GHGs.

“We recognize the importance of engaging the private business community in the housing development of the country. We are willing and eager to sit down with the buildings sector to find business sector to invest in low-income housing and other green building initiatives,” de Guzman said.

He said the forum is expected to result in broader awareness and commitment from the financial and private sectors in implementing climate initiatives.

“In the context of our developing country, [NAMAs] will help us to work more effectively toward our sustainable goals, as well as to foster the economic and social priorities of the new administration,” he added. PND