Roof Over Our Heads: Delivering resilient, affordable, low carbon homes for 2bn people by 2050

By Climate Champions | November 14, 2022

A new campaign that aims to improve by 2050 the lives of 2 billion climate vulnerable people living in informal settlements will be launched at COP27 today.

Roof Over Our Heads (ROOH) was conceived out of a recognition of a collective failure to address the lack of access to safe and decent houses for the most vulnerable communities.

While formal settlements have seen improved “standards of construction” to increase safety and quality and, more recently, to reduce carbon emissions, the same cannot be said for those living informally. Instead, the void between the two has widened dramatically, exacerbated by increasing climate impacts.

With this in mind, the campaign will seek to implement a system of solutions from the ground up, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable neighbourhoods. The idea is to demonstrate that larger volumes of resources can move with ease to small projects.

This grassroots approach challenges the notion of norms and standards to demonstrate incremental upgrading as a robust option to fully reconstruct houses for the poorest.

It will also explore decision making which puts women’s collectives at the centre of solutions, and where peer-to-peer learning across cities, national regions and continents is possible on the basis of evidence and sharing of solutions.

Commenting on the launch, founder Director of the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), Sheela Patel, said: “As part of the Race to Resilience campaign we are looking to develop a locally driven, community based, women centred process and network where women work with the construction industry, engineers and architects and explore ways by which they can transform homes to ones that can survive extreme weather conditions.”

First woman President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said: “It is often those least responsible for climate change and its consequences – the most disadvantaged communities – who are facing the gravest threats. The accumulative and gendered consequences of climate change put women and girls at particular risk. Therefore, I am pleased to launch ROOH today. Every woman living in an informal settlement should have access to a decent home that keeps her warm, dry, and safe.”

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since 2008 an annual average of 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced by weather-related events – such as floods and heatwaves. These numbers are expected to surge in coming decades with forecasts from international thinktank the IEP predicting that 1.2 billion people could be displaced globally by 2050 due to climate change and natural disasters.

ROOH will help deliver a resilience “breakthrough” on human settlements as part of the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions’ Race to Resilience campaign. The objective is, through better design, construction, and access to finance, 1 billion people by 2030 can live in decent, safe, affordable and resilient homes.

In line with the theme of COP27: Together for implementation, the campaign seeks to demonstrate the united power of communities, engineers, cities, architects, and suppliers in effecting positive change.

ROOH is a partnership between The Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), SDI, Global Resilience Partnership, and a number of supporting organisations. The campaign is in collaboration with the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions.

“Roof Over Our Heads is an excellent example of how radical collaborations can address a very important issue. It’s unacceptable that still in the 21st Century, where we have so much material wealth, that we still have many families living without basically functioning roofs. This campaign brings frontline communities, especially women who are bearing the brunt of these poor conditions, to the front stage together with private and public sectors to co-create an initiative that improves the lives and livelihoods of 2 billion people by 2050,” UN Climate Change High-Level Champions forCOP26,” Nigel Topping.