Industry experts and released prisoners make the case for Insulate Britain’s demand for a fully funded national retrofit effort in the UK

Six people from from Insulate Britain are due to be released from prison tomorrow after serving half the sentences handed down to them by the High Court last year for breaking the government’s M25 injunction sought to stop Insulate Britain’s campaign of roadblocks. James Thomas, an architect, Emma Smart, an ecologist, and Dr Diana Warner, a retired GP are joined by Oliver Rock, a carpenter, Roman Paluch, a warehouse operator and Tim Speers, volunteer. Tomorrow will see the release of all but one of the 10 people from Insulate Britain who have received prison time, with the exception of Ben Taylor, a community volunteer, who has one more month left to serve. [1] [2]

Speaking from prison Dr Diana Warner, retired GP, 62, from Bristol, released from HMP Bronzefield tomorrow, said; 

“The value of good home insulation has been recognised for decades. The first Government programme for effective home insulation was planned and set up in 2001, but it was never implemented. There were many acknowledged benefits to the programme: ending fuel poverty, cutting down death and morbidity from cold homes, reducing carbon emissions, and stimulating the economy. 

During my time in prison, I have used a medical model to determine the monetary value of ending fuel poverty, which is a primary benefit of Insulate Britain’s demand. I’ve based it on the cost considered acceptable to spend in the NHS for one year of fully functional life gained by a medical treatment. I believe the value, i.e the gain, of ending fuel poverty over 10 years may be considered to be in the ballpark of £4.25 billion. To put this into context that is 1000 times more than the figure of 4.3 million released as an estimate of the Policing costs relating to the Insulate Britain campaign.

In some ways, ascribing a monetary value to ending fuel poverty is absurd. However, not doing so is dangerous. Not ascribing a monetary value to ending fuel poverty has resulted in the problem not being addressed over decades. It costs lives, affects health, results in poor nutrition of children and underachievement at school. Fuel poverty in our money based society is ignored.”

Speaking from prison, James Thomas, 47, architect, from London, released from HMP Thameside tomorrow, said:

“My time in prison has been uncomfortable, stressful and sometimes scary. But
nobody I’ve met in here has been angry about our actions [blocking the M25]. Some inmates have been full of respect. All of them have ‘got it’, and understood why we did it.

People might say, does this kind of civil disobedience actually work? And I would say, well quite often, it doesn’t work. But quite often it does work, and those instances are well known throughout history. And so, given where emissions are, and given where the clock is, and given where the politics isn’t, how could we not try this? 

I was sentenced to two months in prison. 8,500 people are sentenced to death every year through fuel poverty. One person every 15 minutes over winter. 

Any architect, economist and indeed politician knows that insulating homes is Job Number 1 to reduce emissions and tackle fuel poverty in this country. 

During the time I’ve been in prison, families in Britain have been told to expect a 50% increase in energy bills, which ultimately means thousands more deaths. The Government currently faces a cost of living crisis which will only worsen the longer they add bandages to the problem, and delay the sensible, efficient long term solution – to get on with insulating homes.

We need a fully funded national retrofit effort in the UK akin to the NHS – a National Retrofit Scheme. So, not an incentive scheme, not a loan, like the previously failed Government Green New Deal policy – it’s a person with a hard hat and a clipboard who turns up at your house and says they’re going to retrofit it. Does this sound like pie in the sky? So did the NHS when it was first discussed in the 1940s. Similar schemes are being rolled out in major cities around the world already, like New York.”

Emma Smart, 44, an ecologist, from Dorset, released from HMP Bronzefield tomorrow said;

‘Boris Johnson is either heartless or scared. Protecting people living in Britain against the death and destruction of the climate crisis is our government’s most basic of duties. Further to this, without a national retrofit and insulate programme the government are saying it is ok for thousands of people to die in their homes every year, and continue to do so, particularly as the energy crisis we are in worsens. Adequate insulation should be a basic right.

I was on hunger strike for 26 days whilst in prison. I would rather be doing my job, as a research scientist, progressing scientific analysis, as an ecologist. But instead, to enact the rapid change we need, this feels like the only option left. How long before the UK Government recognises their responsibility to keep people safe and warm?”


Julia Barfield MBE RIBA FRSA, London Eye, said today;

“I have huge admiration and respect for those who – understanding the urgency and gravity of the Climate Emergency and recognising the inadequacy of the government response – are willing to put themselves on the line to spotlight what should be done. Insulating the UK’s leaky homes will reduce energy need, CO2 emissions and fuel poverty while making the Uk more energy independent. According to the science we have only 8yrs left to take the necessary radical action. A mass program of housing retrofit is one of those vital actions. “

Dieter Kleiner, Director RCKa said today;

“It strikes me that not until the climate emergency has an issue been so intrinsically linked to the wellbeing of individuals, communities and society, and never has such a positive, practical and roundly supported step to address such an issue been available. What is most incredible in this context is that Insulate Britain’s request is simply that the government deliver on its own election pledge, to invest £9.2b to insulate the UK’s housing stock.

The economic stimulus in creating thousands of skilled jobs, and the reduction in fuel poverty for those most in need is reason alone. Add to this the legal obligation and moral imperative to reduce to net zero the carbon emissions in the UK by 2050, and it becomes nonsensical that action hasn’t already happened.

The government has an incredible opportunity to galvanise the country post-Brexit, post-Covid, by committing to these improvements, to which I’d add the industry’s longstanding call to equalize VAT for new-build and refurbishment projects to avoid the huge environmental cost of demolition.”

Charles Meloy, MELOY Architects said today;
“The remit of Insulate Britain is to better insulate the built environment to remove fuel poverty and enable the move to a low carbon economy. Tackling climate change evidently needs a range of approaches and voices, on their own government is unable to undertake the changes needed. The UK has committed to carbon zero by 2050 with many local councils bringing this forward to 2030. In the face of this, the latest iteration of the building regulations falls well short of where standards need to be to ensure that we meet even the 2050 deadline. As a profession we have the skills and knowledge to implement the necessary changes to deliver low energy buildings that will advance our progress towards net zero and yet the building regulations will mean that some new buildings will require future retrofitting. 

This example shows the need for Insulate Britain and others to be allowed to undertake peaceful action in the face of inaction. Rather than trying to silence Insulate Britain the government should be entering into a dialogue with any group that is committed to moving our economy to carbon zero.”

Architects Climate Action Network said today;

‘The nine Insulate Britain campaigners released this week should never have been sent to jail and their imprisonment is a clear sign of the UK government’s eager push towards authoritarianism above taking any responsibility to tackle the climate crisis. 

The government has legally binding climate targets that must be met and there is no way to do that without insulating homes to dramatically reduce emissions. ACAN and our Households Declare team stand with Insulate Britain, as one of the many campaigns and organisations calling for a National retrofit strategy from the architecture and construction industry.’

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