There has been some progress on the project to improve the fabric of my children’s Primary School, though it is frustratingly slow. To get double glazing fitted on the windows, the school needs to get agreement from the local council. This is not full planning permission, but Islington owns the building and, as the Local Education Authority runs the school, so the school needs to get a letter saying that they have no objection. We had hoped to get the double glazing installed in corridors, from which a lot of heat is lost, during the recent half term break. However, the paperwork wasn’t completed in time, so the school decided to carry out draught-proofing instead, as a first step. This was inexpensive and, now that the children are back and the weather has become colder, the upper floor of the building is noticeably warmer. We now intend to get the double glazing work done over the Christmas holiday.
Partnership with school in Niger
The school also has a partnership with a school in Niger, in the Sahara. This has no electricity at the moment. However, it is an obvious location for solar panels to power fans during school time and charge batteries to provide lights in the evening, so that the community could use it. I am therefore trying to raise money for this.
The Economical Environmentalist – the problem of planning restrictions
I went recently to the book launch of The Economical Environmentalist by Prashant Vaze. It is an excellent book and Prashant has been central to getting the UK government to recognise that better heating is crucial to reducing greenhouse emissions and also to reducing fuel poverty (see The Economical Economist). (The UK has more cold-related deaths than Scandinavian countries and even than Russia.) At the launch, he said that he had had significant problems and delays in getting planning permission for double glazing at his house, which is in a conservation area in the London Borough of Camden.
Planning is the main barrier to renewables in the UK and the main reason why we get a lower proportion of our energy from renewables than any other EU country except Malta. It is alarming to discover that planning and paperwork are also a barrier to energy efficiency, even where money is available. Both Islington and Camden Councils have good approaches to climate. I went to meet Islington Council Leader, Terry Stacy, in the summer. He was very supportive but pointed out, with clear justification, that his priority is to repair schools where the windows are falling out, rather than fitting double glazing. Yet, it is one thing to have good policies and quite another to deliver good results, which requires enormous administrative effort, as well as sufficient money.
The Whittington Hospital
My nearest hospital, the Whittington, has now adopted its carbon reduction strategy (see Whittington Hospital NHS Trust: Carbon Reduction Strategy). This begins by noting that:
“… despite an increase in efficiency, the NHS has increased its carbon footprint by 40% since 1990. This means that meeting the Climate Change Act targets of 26% reduction by 2020 and 80% reduction by 2050 will be a huge challenge.“
The Whittington sets itself a target of reducing its 2007 carbon footprint by 10% by 2015. This is perfectly possible, but requires money, and the NHS does not have any spare.
I have been helping the Whittington reduce their carbon emissions (see 15 October 2009: Acting locally, thinking globally). Therefore, I have written to the following:
- The UK Department for Transport to ask for money for electric vehicles and charging points.
- The Department of Health to ask for money for thermostats.
- The Department of Energy and Climate Change to ask for money for solar thermal panels.
I’ll keep you informed of my progress in all of the above…