23 Nov 2021

1-      Introduction

Many will be aware that the United Nations Climate Change Conference came to a close on the 13th of November - COP 26. This annual conference is an opportunity for world leaders to reflect on the challenges of Climate Change and agree emissions reduction targets that limit the negative impacts of Climate Change.

The most prominent conference in recent memory was COP21 (2015) where The Paris Agreement was signed by all major polluting nations. The outcome of which was to limit increases to global average temperatures ‘well-below 2 Celsius’ and pursue efforts to limit global average temperatures to ‘1.5 Celsius’ above pre-industrial levels.

A ‘1.5 Celsius’ pathway aligns closely with other common terminology such as ‘Net-Zero’ as a means to prevent the worst impacts of Climate Change. The aim of COP26 was to build upon The Paris Agreement and deliver ‘enhanced commitments’.

2-      Impacts from Climate Change

Scenes from across the world of extreme weather effects are linked to Climate Change. As humans continue to emit greenhouse gases we are increasing the effects of global warming which over time is changing the climate of regions far and wide across the world. Further, the frequency and severity of Climate Change impacts are increasing rapidly.

As we view worldwide Climate Change impacts, the earth is currently ‘1.1 Celsius’ above pre-industrial levels. Achieving a ‘1.5 Celsius’ pathway will not eliminate Climate Change impacts entirely. Instead the aim is to prevent the most devastating Climate Change impacts. As per the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a ‘2 Celsius’ increase of average global temperatures represents the point of no return whereby the most serious impacts of Climate Change will be irreparable.

3-      Outcomes of COP26


  1. Coal – Last minute language change from India and China resulted in a final agreement to ‘phase-down’ rather than ‘phase-out’ coal. However, this is the first ever global commitment to reduce coal consumption and there was agreement to ‘phase-out’ ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies that make fossil fuels such as coal a financially competitive energy source.  
  2. Methane – 100 countries agreed to cut Methane emissions by 30% by 2030. These are largely linked to cattle production and waste management.
  3. Trees – The 100 countries with the largest forest resources agreed to stop deforestation by 2030, representing 85% of global forests. 
  4. Finance – 450 institutions representing $130tn has been forwarded to fulfill commitments towards a ‘1.5 Celsius’ pathway.


4-      How does this impact Choice Housing?

The outcomes of COP26 compliment Choice’s vision to 2030. As part of Choice’s 2021-24 sustainability and energy strategy (currently under review), we will strive towards the development and implementation of a decarbonisation pathway in line with a ‘1.5 Celsius’ emissions reduction target.

This exercise will highlight where Choice’s largest emissions sources exist and provide a vital first step to determining a route to achieving an emissions reduction pathway to 2030 that limits to a global warming threshold of ‘1.5 Celsius’. Choice will strive towards performing this programme of emissions reduction through a verifiable method and report our progress annually with a view towards transparency and credibility in our roadmap to ‘Net-Zero’ by 2050. Three critical initiatives in our ‘1.5 Celsius’ pathway include:

New homes: Choice will need to build for the future through the development of homes to ‘nearly zero-energy building’ standards. Implementing these standards is something that Choice have experience with through projects such as Killynure Green in Carryduff. This project provided valuable experience in the methods, materials and processes involved in building this type of home.

Retrofitting homes: A significant part of our approach will be to take steps to retrofit energy efficiency measures into existing Choice properties. This will make tenants homes more affordable, comfortable and environmentally friendly. Choice’s current EPC (home energy certificate) average is 76, which is higher than the NI social housing average of 72. In our strategy to 2024 we will strive to achieve an average EPC rating of 78 through investment in energy efficiency.

Tenants and staff: Tackling our collective Carbon footprint will require ‘Climate literacy’ amongst our staff and tenants. All of us can take steps to reduce our burden on the environment. However, many may not be aware of how they can take action and in many cases the language associated with Climate Change is complex. As such Choice will need to put tenants and staff in the driving seat for change through a programme of training and engagement.