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No room for empty gestures

‘Build back better, blah blah blah… Green economy, blah blah blah… Climate neutral, blah blah blah… ‘

Those were the mocking and powerful words of climate activist Greta Thunberg at the recent Youth4Climate summit. And as housing associations address the Welsh Government’s commitment to low carbon social housing by 2030, there is in Grŵp Cynefin no room for empty words and gestures, only real ambition, drive and dedication as we develop and deliver our Decarbonisation Strategy.

It’s our duty to present and future communities to make sure  that nobody accuses us of nothing but ‘blah blah blah’.

The challenge is a substantial one. With more than 4,800 properties across north Wales and  north Powys, 92% of Grŵp Cynefin’s carbon emissions come from our housing stock which is diverse in age, size and location.  Our own buildings need to be rethought too, as we move towards flexible working with less time spent in the offices, by fewer members of staff. Data is key as we tackle our footprint  and reducing energy and heating usage is one of the first basic steps.

We are already developing new stock to high energy performance standards by meeting, and occasionally exceeding, Welsh Government requirements . One such development, funded by the Innovative Housing programme, is 24 low carbon properties  in Penygroes, Gwynedd. These homes are part of an ambitious £30 million low carbon, innovative health, well-being and cultural hub for the area that includes a medical centre, housing for older people, childcare facilities, and a community theatre as well as offices for Grŵp Cynefin.

Raising awareness among staff, customers and partners will also play a fundamental role. Working with the Carbon Literacy consortium, five staff members from Grŵp Cynefin have qualified as trainers to raise the profile of climate change and how every individual can help reduce our carbon footprint.

Funding is, without doubt, the elephant in the room. We continue to await details from Welsh Government on how retrofitting thousands of homes can be supported. After all, it is a major Wales-wide task of worldwide importance. There is a dire lack of skills to undertake this enormous challenge, but a fantastic opportunity to skill-up the current and future workforce in a range of skills as well as supporting local SMEs and the local supply chain. We in the housing sector are experienced in adapting to change and a track record of delivering.

Shan Lloyd Williams is chief executive of Grŵp Cynefin

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