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We need action from politicians on climate change

13 June, 2019

Extinction Rebellion members in action

• I STRONGLY support Extinction Rebellion’s objective to minimise climate change, (Climate change is an emergency that won’t wait, June 6).

However XR’s list of practical demands is insufficient to reach their technical target. We need a longer hit list. One example, the UK must thermally upgrade (very radically) at least 500,000 homes per year; or rebuild them.

Yes, the problem is urgent. But (sorry!) I can’t agree that a reduction of UK carbon emissions to “net zero” will be achieved by 2025, as XR demands.

For sure, to hit climate change, the UK must move quickly on priorities; for example, large scale onshore wind generation of electricity, for which significant changes to national planning regulations are essential for rapid delivery.

The first wake-up call was in 1973-4 (45 years ago), when Opec, The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, increased the price of crude oil by a factor of three.

Less known, between 1973 and 1980, the oil price rose by a factor of 11. In response, in 1980, with others, I started a specialist firm of architects and energy consultants in London. Our first publication assessed “passive solar housing” in the UK.

From 1980 we undertook an ambitious programme of research and development for the European Economic Community on the use of solar energy in buildings in Europe.

We reported in the UK on the potential for deep energy cuts in the built environment and, for 40 years, we designed and built low energy buildings. But, because of politics and cash starvation, to this day this work is restricted to one-offs and “pilot projects”.

Industry catch-up is necessary. To achieve that, a sea-change of political will is required at national and local levels. Looking forwards the most important energy saving technologies exist now. The main problem is mass implementation.

I agree with XR, implementation requires substantial upgrades to statutory regulations (sticks not carrots); also rapid up-scaling of expertise and training; and massive investment.

An industrial revolution is necessary, alongside speedy development of safe, fast-track, supply chains for delivery.

My own shoulders are bruised from trying to push open the doors of government and industry on these topics. Young shoulders are needed, and it’s great to see XR pushing hard. Politicians, you must act!

Spare XR the fate of Cassandra, who was cursed to utter prophecies that were true but which no one believed.

RICHARD FERRARO FRIBA

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