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Kyoto and Fuel Poverty

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Introduction

3a) Discuss and critically evaluate the development of sustainable construction since the Rio conference and Kyoto agreements and include and compare agenda 21, HECA, affordable warmth, fuel poverty policies and guidelines and their apparent effectiveness in terms of the spirit of the Rio agreements. The construction industry is one of the most intensive in terms of its consumption of natural resources and energy and in its production of waste materials. In order to meet the goals of sustainable development, the construction industry must embrace more sustainable forms of building and make better use of the resources available. It is not just an issue of matching consumption patterns to the earth's available natural wealth. The extraction, processing and transportation of these materials have a huge environmental impact - the more consumed, the more damage there is. Sustainable construction therefore, requires not only reducing consumption, but also re-using and recycling the materials already available. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. It was attended by political leaders from 178 countries together with representatives from all the major environmental organisations. The objectives of the conference were to respond to pressing global environmental problems and five separate agreements were made, including 'Agenda 21' - a blueprint for sustainable development. Agenda 21 called on all nations to: * Cut down their use of energy and raw materials. ...read more.

Middle

This provided a basis for an intelligent discussion between industry, NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) and Government about sustainable development. It stated that "buildings are also responsible for almost half of UK carbon emissions, half of water consumption, about one third of landfill waste and 13% of all raw materials used in the UK economy. To achieve our sustainable development goals, we have to change the way we build." The proposed Sustainable Construction Strategy is currently being developed (post consultation) and is due to be launched on 11 June 2008. This strategy aims to take a longer-term view on how the UK construction industry can become more sustainable and the Government aims to establish a joint Government and Industry Strategy for Sustainable Construction. In the UK, 90% of our energy needs come from fossil fuels, 9% from nuclear and just 1% from renewables (energy sources that are replenished - solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and biofuels). Energy used in the home is responsible for 25% of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions. The energy use of an average family in the UK releases over 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 4 kilograms of sulphur dioxide into the rain every year, adding to the problems of global warming and acid rain. The urgent need to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which are largely responsible for causing climate change, is a major factor behind the Government's drive to raise standards of construction. ...read more.

Conclusion

Fuel poverty is one of Britain's largest social ills. Often caused by poor insulation and old or inefficient heating, fuel poverty affects more than 3 million families in the UK. Where a household cannot afford to keep warm, their health is at risk and their quality of life is affected. Fuel Poverty is defined as the properties' energy bills being equal to more than 10% of the household's income and those who are most vulnerable are from households with low incomes, unemployed, the elderly and the disabled. A major theme of Agenda 21 is the need to eradicate poverty by giving poor people more access to the resources they need to live sustainably. The Government's Affordable Warmth Programme aims to improve the level of comfort in up to 1 million homes through the development of initiatives providing efficient heating to households in conjunction with energy efficient measures and advice. This Programme however, only addresses the needs of one third of those suffering fuel poverty. In the spirit of the Rio Conference and the Kyoto Agreement, the UK Government is addressing the issues of sustainable construction but regulations are in respect of new building. In respect of existing building stock, little has been done to address the situation and many homes and buildings are energy inefficient. Even in terms of new build, the Government's present strategy is confusing for the industry and delivery of sustainable development is largely inconsistent. ...read more.

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