Today is the United Nations’ World Habitat Day, with this year’s theme focusing on ‘Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world.’
First celebrated in 1986 and observed annually on the first Monday of October, each theme of the World Habitat Day encourages us to think about the state of our towns and cities and the basic human right for everyone to have suitable and safe housing.
According to the United Nations, cities are responsible for some 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions with transport, buildings, energy, and waste management accounting for the bulk of urban greenhouse gas emissions.
In the UK, the 2050 net zero target has made both private and public sector organisations to examine how they can bring down their greenhouse gas emissions, minimise the environmental impact of their operations and find new solutions.
This reflects all areas of society. Last month, a Zero Emission Social Housing Task Force report outlined recommendations on what is required to achieve zero emission housing in Scotland whilst ensuring support for tenants in reducing their energy bills and achieving carbon savings.
Over in Wales, the Welsh Government announced to be working closely with the country’s existing electricity and gas network operators to make sure their networks can support energy systems’ transformation, which the Committee on Climate Change says is necessary by 2030.
Most local authorities across the UK have declared a climate emergency and have announced their net zero plans. In July 2021, the National Audit Office considered how effectively central government and local authorities in England are collaborating on net zero.
The report concludes that local authorities have an important part to play in reaching net zero but there are ‘serious weaknesses’ in central government’s approach to working with local authorities on decarbonisation, stemming from a lack of clarity over local authorities’ overall roles, piecemeal funding, and diffuse accountabilities.
The World Habitat Day reminds that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns. Making changes in our personal and professional lives will create a ripple effect across society.
In November, the world leaders will come together in Glasgow for COP26, which will be a historical opportunity to create real change across the world, for all of us.
More information about the World Habitat Day is available on the United Nations website.