Letter: Saving the planet

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The Independent Online
I should like to counter the suggestion by Hugh Aldersey-Williams (report, 2 February) that, in setting a target of a 20 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010, the British government is guilty of harmful idealism.

It is certainly an ambitious undertaking, but attainable. However, public support for such a target may be more forthcoming if the spotlight shifts from global warming to things that more directly and immediately concern us.

For example, with 8 million households receiving some form of benefit, we can assume that a high proportion of these and the "nearly poor" are victims of fuel poverty. Cutting their fuel bills in half by raising the thermal efficiency of their homes would meet an acute social need whilst generating jobs and cutting down on the pounds 1bn annual health bill attributable to poor housing.

The greatest energy cost in commercial buildings is the electricity bill for lighting. Using the latest lighting technology, the lighting load could be reduced, even in older buildings, at the same time improving on current illumination standards for work stations. New offices that are naturally ventilated and lit not only save energy; they also produce more amenable working conditions. In cases where corporate headquarters have moved to new "green" premises the result has been a significant cut in absenteeism.

Setting a target date around 2005 for zero-emission city centres would propel car manufacturers into mass producing hybrid vehicles that could be electrically powered in pollution-free zones or when pollution levels are high. What about the new baby Jaguar setting the example? Cleaner air could be a very attractive by-product of the 20 per cent CO2 cut.

Greater stress should be laid on strategies where saving the planet for future generations coincides with tackling more immediate social, health and economic problems.