More Insulate Britain activists were jailed last week. Since their protests began in September global energy prices have risen dramatically and British households face a 54 per cent increase in their fuel bills. It might strengthen their case.
Today, why has insulation become the number one climate issue in Britain?
Last September a new climate action group called Insulate Britain took to the streets. They have one simple demand and it’s right there in their name – they want to insulate Britain’s homes. They think proper insulation is one of the best ways to reduce emissions and energy bills.
It might seem like a pretty niche issue to centre an entire campaign around, but as millions of households grapple with the rising cost of heating, a lack of decent insulation is an obvious issue that, if solved, could soften the financial blow.
Insulate Britain wanted to capture people’s attention, so over several weeks last year they launched disruptive, but eye-catching protests.
On four main routes into London this morning, Insulate Britain protesters once again stop the traffic.ITV
They tried to block four sites in London, passersby were not in a mood to listen on Wandsworth bridge, a major route north across the Thames5News
Activists laid down on motorways and busy roads and glued themselves to the ground when police arrived to make it harder for them to be removed. And, unsurprisingly, things quickly got nasty.
It wasn’t painful, it didn’t hurt, it’s just sad, the whole thing is sad you know.The Telegraph
That’s Dr Christian Murray-Leslie, he’s a 77 year old retired doctor and he’s an Insulate Britain activist. He’s spent his whole life lobbying MPs, marching, signing petitions to no avail. So he’s decided to change tact, now opting in for what he calls “peacefully disruptive actions.”
Last October, presumably in revenge for “being annoying” (his words), Dr Christian Murray-Leslie, alongside a handful of other protesters, were sprayed with ink by a member of the public. He stood on the road, his skin stained blue.
I hate doing this. I’m a retired doctor and have spent my life trying to help people and now I’m reduced to having to do this.The Telegraph
After a slew of arrests the protests came to a halt. But Insulate Britain’s battles continued in the courts. Earlier this month five activists were jailed at the High Court and 11 more were given suspended sentences. So what are they fighting for and do their aims have more resonance today as household energy bills rise?
In the UK gas prices have spiked there are warnings of an energy crunch coming this winter.Sky News
In order to understand Dr Christian Murray-Leslie’s reasons for glueing himself to the M25, we have to take a look at the increasingly volatile energy markets. This isn’t a UK specific problem – everything that could go wrong with this sector seems to be going wrong at the moment.
Energy supplies are outstripping demand as the market struggles to keep up with pre-covid levels of consumption. There’s been a lack of investment in the last few years in energy infrastructure and fuel production.
And as the world shifts towards renewable energy sources, whilst still relying heavily on fossil fuels, there have been huge supply shocks that disrupt consumers lives. So what does this all mean in real terms?
Well, the price of natural gas in the UK has increased 420 per cent year on year. And this has had a huge knock on effect on everyone’s bills — which are now set to double.
I was trying to get a renewal quote for energy and it was just really casually sent back to me and it was £900 a month more expensive and that for us like small independent business is absolutely crippling, yeah it’s one of those things it could be the nail in the coffin for this business or other businesses like ours.Sky News
Britain also has some of the oldest and least energy efficient homes in Europe, two thirds of all homes need better insulation. And 3000 people die each year because of fuel poverty. A number that will only grow if houses aren’t insulated as energy prices continue to rise.
So where do we go from here?
For Dr Christian Murray-Leslie, it’s a no brainer. The government needs to retrofit insulation into Britain’s homes or incentivise people to do it themselves. This isn’t a solution that’s without problems, retrofitting is expensive, it can shrink the size of your rooms, and it’s time consuming.
And seeing as it could take decades to make back the cost, for a lot of people it’s more trouble than it’s worth. But doing this could also cut carbon emissions by 15 per cent. If Britain is serious about reaching its climate goals then this would be a practical step towards achieving them.
For activists like Dr Christian Murray-Leslie it’s obvious. Insulating Britain’s homes will go some way towards offsetting rising energy prices and help tackle climate change.
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