UNECE Region Agrees on Scope, Objectives for Sustainable Housing Charter

UNECE8 May 2014: Government Ministers and Agency Heads from 27 countries agreed on the scope and objectives for a Charter on Sustainable Housing in the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region, at the First Informal Meeting of the Committee on Housing and Land Management. The Charter is expected to support the long-term sustainability of the housing sector and the building of green, socially inclusive human settlements. The meeting took place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 7 May 2014.

The Charter aims to support UNECE member governments in ensuring access to decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all, and in reducing the housing sector's impact on the environment. The Charter's scope is to “improve the sustainability of housing in the UNECE region through effective policies and actions at all levels in order to contribute to sustainable development in the region and supported by international cooperation.”

In the Charter, UNECE member states support actions to: enhance the housing sector's energy efficiency and limit its environmental impact; promote sustainable economic development; promote healthy, barrier-free and safe housing; and promote the continued application of sustainable housing principles. The Charter is also anticipated to strengthen implementation of existing UNECE housing action plans, guidelines and policy recommendations.

Actions to enhance the housing sector's energy efficiency and limit its environmental impact include: improving norms and standards for energy efficiency and environmental safety in new and existing buildings; reducing the sector's carbon footprint throughout its life cycle; increasing the proportion of energy efficient low-energy housing units; ensuring that energy efficient renovations are affordable and cost-efficient; ensuring the design and construction of housing applies environmental sustainability principles, with a special focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation; making waste and water management an integral part of sustainable housing strategies; and promoting public transportation and facilitating bicycling to counteract urban sprawl and save energy.

The Committee's agreement on the Charter's scope and objectives is the culmination of a four-year process to agree on the modalities for an international instrument on sustainable housing, led by the Bureau of UNECE's Committee on Housing and Land Management. The UNECE Executive Committee agreed to prepare a Charter on Sustainable Housing on 6 February 2014. The draft Charter is open for comments and will be discussed at the Committee's Second Informal Meeting, which will take place from 4-5 September 2014.

The Committee on Housing and Land Management, which was established in 1947, is one of UNECE's oldest committees. It aims to address the UNECE's housing and land-management challenges through assessing countries' housing systems and providing policy guidance, advice and capacity building. [UNECE Press Release] [Meeting Webpage] [Draft Charter on Sustainable Housing for the ECE Region] [Housing and Land Management Website] [Second Informal Meeting Website]