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Advocacy on the home front

Philanthropy and climate resilient homes

Tagged in: Sustainable cities, Advocacy, National

Each year, growing numbers of Australian philanthropists are supporting environmental initiatives designed to increase the sustainability of our cities and communities. Many of these initiatives include advocacy to champion far-sighted changes to policy or regulatory environments rather than funding band-aid solutions.

A recent example is philanthropy’s support of Renew, a not-for-profit that provides expert, independent advice on sustainable solutions for the home to households, government and industry. Three foundations provided a total of $135,000.

With residential buildings accounting for around 12 percent of Australia’s carbon emissions due to poor energy efficiency, Renew sought to advocate on behalf of consumers by making the case for improved compliance with energy performance standards and the introduction of higher benchmarks to government and industry.

Not only will better designed, zero carbon housing reduce emissions and make Australian homes more resilient to our changing climate, they will also deliver benefits such as lower running costs and improved health.

“Consumers, particularly disadvantaged people, pay the price of poor performance, but policy-making lacks a consumer voice,”

Donna Luckman, CEO Renew

Helped by funding in 2018 from three Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) members, the Mullum Trust, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and Australian Communities Foundation, Renew partnered with Australian Council of Social Services to build a national coalition of more than 65 social, health and environment groups that are working together to call for urgent action to raise the energy performance of Australia’s homes.

Representing hundreds of thousands of Australians, the coalition agreed to a set of policies, culminating in a joint statement (pdf) in July 2019, that calls on government to commit to:

  • Raising energy performance standards for new homes and major renovations.
  • Improving the energy performance of existing homes, including targeted measures to overcome the barriers faced by low-income households to accessing energy performance upgrades for their homes.

Australian Communities Foundation CEO, Maree Sidey, says the advocacy campaign was a clear fit for ACF’s Impact Fund which invests in bold solutions to some of the biggest social and environmental issues facing Australia today.

“Our community of givers at ACF knows the power of advocacy and collective effort,”

Maree Sidey, CEO Australian Communities Foundation

Renew received $150,000 over three years from ACF’s Impact Fund plus pitch training and exposure to other potential philanthropic funders

In just over 12 months, the campaign for Climate Resilient Homes has scored significant wins, including:

  • COAG Energy Ministers committing to lifting the energy ratings of new homes as part of the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings.
  • COAG Energy Ministers agreeing to develop a Trajectory for Low Energy Existing Homes.
  • Building Ministers agreeing to the development of enhanced energy efficiency provisions for new residential buildings in the National Construction Code 2022.
  • Renew being asked to be the consumer representative on the residential working group for the National Construction Code 2012 Energy Efficiency Project – the first time consumers have been represented in the development of the code.

Over the next two years Renew will continue to lead engagement with the National Construction Code policy process, continue its ongoing support for cross-sector engagement; and deliver a summer media campaign that highlights the risks of poor-quality housing during Australia’s increasing number of heatwaves.

“There is still a long way to go,” Luckman says, “but significant steps have been taken to improve our housing stock and reduce emissions and these have created momentum for a range of groups to advocate on energy efficiency.”

Learn more

Take a tour of a Climate Resilient Home on Sustainable House Day, 15 September when 235 of Australia’s most environmentally progressive homes open their doors to the public.