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4 min read

7-star win for environmental philanthropy: Climate Resilient Homes and the Impact Fund

Profile of Dom O'Donnell
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 7/9/2022

In a win for climate and environmental philanthropy, governments across the country have agreed to a historic increase to energy standards in Australian homes. 

From October 2023, all new homes will need to meet the National Construction Code’s 7-Star energy standards, reducing both emissions and energy bills, ultimately easing cost-of-living pressures. 

“This decision has been years in the making,” says Dr Fiona Gray, CEO of national sustainability organisation Renew. Indeed, the decision marks the first increase to standards in over a decade. 

This campaign just wouldn’t have been possible without philanthropic support 

Supported by the Australian Communities Foundation Impact Fund and seven other ACF Named Funds* since 2018, Renew has been leading calls on governments to lift standards through its Climate Resilient Homes campaign. The campaign has also received critical support from Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Boundless Earth, the Mullum Trust and Lenko Family Foundation as well as individual donors and Energy Consumers Australia. 

“This campaign just wouldn’t have been possible without philanthropic support,” says Fiona. “The investment in strategic advocacy by the ACF Impact Fund and our other key partners allowed us to build the campaign and deliver a big win. 

“Governments were under serious pressure from sections of industry to drop the changes,” Fiona explains. “The demonstration of community support for better homes enabled by our campaign was critical to getting the changes over the line.” 

According to Renew, the boosted energy efficiency standards are expected to cut emissions by up to 78 million tonnes and lower the cost of grid upgrades by up to $12.6 billion by 2050. 

“Lifting energy efficiency not only reduces emissions and makes homes more comfortable,” says Fiona, “it saves households money at the same time.” 

With that in mind, Renew expects the updated NCC to reduce poverty and inequality by ensuring higher standards in social housing and private rentals.  

What this shows is the power of funding sustained advocacy and not giving up when things take time

Australian Communities Foundation CEO Maree Sidey says the win demonstrates the value of working with partners who are undertaking sustained advocacy. 

“Our community got behind the campaign in its early stages because we saw the potential. This was a way some really targeted funds could make a difference to climate change, and now they have. 

“What this shows is the power of funding sustained advocacy and not giving up when things take time. When Renew’s campaign timelines were blown out due to Covid, our community responded with additional support. It’s so important we stick with partners through the unexpected.

“Congratulations to the Renew team for their persistence in hanging in there and securing this win – both a win for the environment and a win for people across Australia, who will benefit for years to come.” 

“From a philanthropic perspective, it speaks to the power of strategic and sustained advocacy, collaboration and patience. Thank you to all of you who have worked tirelessly over several years to influence this outcome.” 

With energy prices expected to continue to rise, Renew is now calling for the new standards to be implemented as fast as possible. 

“Renew has found that building 7-Star homes with solar and no gas can cut bills by over $1000 a year,” explains Dr Fiona Gray. “There’s never been a more important time to tackle bills – and we can do it by making our homes more efficient and powering them with renewables. Smarter design in the way we build our homes will make the transition to renewables faster and cheaper.”  

“There is no time to lose. We’d like to see the implementation period actioned as fast as possible so that households aren’t missing out on quality, affordable, low-emissions homes.” 

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* Thank you to the seven Australian Communities Foundation funds that have co-funded the campaign alongside the Impact Fund: Alf & Meg Steel Fund; Bell Family Fund; Fairer Futures; Hart Line Fund; Juno Fund; Raettvisa Fund; and Williams Fund.