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COP28 – Why HUD Attends the Annual Climate Conference

Message From PD&R Senior Leadership
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COP28 – Why HUD Attends the Annual Climate Conference

Cynthia Campbell.
Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.

By Cindy Campbell

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the United Nations entity, consisting of 198 member nations, that focuses on the world’s response to the threat of climate change.  The most significant recent UNFCCC achievement is the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which member nations pledged to keep the world’s annual average temperature rise at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which would stabilize major effects of climate change. UNFCCC hosts a large annual gathering called the Conference of Parties (COP). HUD started attending the annual COP conferences in 2021 with the historic announcement of HUD’s first-ever Climate Action Plan. Unfortunately, HUD was unable to attend the 2022 COP.

This year, nearly 84,000 participants gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for COP28 — a record number of attendees for a COP, in part because of the numerous businesses participating. Representatives from nearly all U.S. government agencies, including HUD, attended the event. Beth Lynk (assistant secretary for public affairs and HUD’s Head of Delegation), Solomon Greene (principal deputy assistant secretary for policy development and research), and I represented HUD.

COP28 participants gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Nearly 84,000 participants gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for the COP28 meeting to discuss the world's response to climate change. Photo credit: Cindy Campbell

The HUD team participated in numerous events, including a standing-room-only Climate Chat in the U.S. Pavilion with Solomon Greene and Ann Shikany, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The Climate Chat was an opportunity for representatives from HUD and DOT to discuss decarbonizing the transportation sector through mobility and housing solutions. Beth Lynk delivered the U.S. national statement at the COP28 Ministerial Meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change, cohosted by the COP28 Presidency, UN-Habitat, and the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28. Lynk remarked on how natural disasters are affecting the nation:

Our belief in the critical relationship between the urban environment and the climate comes from our experience in the United States. In 2023 alone, there have been 24 $1 billion disasters in our country. Last year, more than 3 million American adults were forced to evacuate their homes because of extreme weather. Sixteen percent of those individuals, around 480,000 people, never returned. That is why the Biden-Harris administration is so committed to investing in resilience, adaptation, and sustainability. Our homes must be able to keep us safe from the next storm, and, at the same time, they must be climate efficient.

In a press conference held on the final day of COP28, John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, reiterated the U.S. commitment to combating climate change:

Last week, the United States announced that U.S. climate finance is expected to exceed $9.5 billion in 2023, on track to meet the president's pledge of over $11 billion in 2024 — which includes a significant scaling up of adaptation finance through the President's Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE). Let's also not lose sight of what we achieved in the first week of this conference, starting with the unprecedented adoption of a major item on the first day of a COP to operationalize loss and damage funding arrangements, leading to over $700 million in immediate pledges from both developed and developing countries. We also made major announcements across a number of sectors — from $1 billion in new grant funding for methane to over 40 new announcements to cut emissions from shipping.

The United States' table at the COP28 conference.
Representatives from nearly all U.S. government agencies, including HUD, attended COP28. Housing is responsible for significant energy use, giving HUD an important role to play in taking action in response to climate change. Photo credit: Cindy Campbell

HUD’s large footprint in climate action is often overlooked. Our participation in COP28 highlights the significant impact of housing on energy consumption and climate. When we think of housing, we think mostly of our personal energy bills, but utility bills are only a small part of housing’s effect on climate. Energy used in construction and building, for example, accounts for 37 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. We don’t consider how much energy we use to create the cement, steel, and aluminum that make up a significant portion of our homes. PD&R has an entire team of researchers working in this area.

The UN Environment Programme launched Buildings Breakthrough at COP28. This initiative consists of 27 countries that have committed to transforming the construction sector to help drive down the high carbon emissions rates in the building industry. The United States has pledged to research new and innovative construction techniques. HUD, along with the National Association of Home Builders, hosted the Innovative Housing Showcase in 2019, 2022, and 2023 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

To wrap up, in its end of year Historic Investments in Housing press release, HUD outlines its efforts to address climate change:

  • HUD is innovating in how it approaches climate investment, creating the first-ever HUD program to simultaneously invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy generation, climate resilience and low embodied carbon. Funded through President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Green and Resilient Retrofit Program (GRRP) provides $800 million in grant and loan subsidy funding and $4 billion in loan commitment to HUD-Assisted Multifamily Housing to make homes safer and more sustainable.

  • Recognizing the tremendous opportunities for investments across federal agencies HUD launched a web-based Funding Navigator and supporting resources to connect program participants to funding opportunities for climate resilience, energy efficiency, renewable energy integration, healthy housing, workforce development and environmental justice. HUD provided $6.7 billion in disaster assistance through Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) to help communities build back resiliently following disasters in 2021 and 2022. To better serve communities who face direct impacts of weather-related disasters, HUD established a new Office of Disaster Management (ODM) in the Office of the Deputy Secretary and a new Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) in the Office of Community Planning and Development.

Published Date: 9 January 2024

The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.