The focus on the government's nuclear energy proposals in its Review of Energy Supply leaves us in danger of neglecting the key issue of achieving radical reductions in energy consumption. The Review is long on intentions, but eight years after signing Kyoto we should be much further ahead. In 2005 a copper-bottomed Code for Sustainable Buildings should have been published, but instead we had an unsatisfactory draft of a Code for Sustainable Homes, now promised for later this year. By April 2006 all public buildings should have been required to display annual energy use figures, both targeted and actual - but this did not happen because of lack of resources. Meanwhile a bewildering and sometimes conicting plethora of energy assessment methods proliferate.
Unless the many ideas in the Review, and there are some good ones, produce actionable results within the next few months, this will be remembered as another missed opportunity to provide the leadership needed to unite industries, sectors and the public in tackling climate change.
Buildings and their use account for half of our total energy use, but 30 per cent of total energy use is taken up just by space heating and hot water. The construction industry, architects and engineers cannot wait for government and must act now.
Professional institutes also have an obligation to think about the issues globally. The concept of 'Contraction and Convergence' (C&C) recognises that action on climate change must take into account the inevitability of high growth in energy use by expanding economies such as China and India, and appears to be the only credible principle available for achieving practical solutions to climate change. The RIBA is now studying C&C as potentially the best overarching policy to formulate clear and effective briefing for architects and all others involved in design.
Sunand Prasad, RIBA Vice President, Policy and Strategy