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Ground control to Major Tim

There’s a star man, living in the sky

At times I just love living in the 21st century.

Last week I listened to the coolest radio interview ever – Chris Evans talking to astronaut Major Tim Peake, live from the International Space Station. That’s live from actual space. Space – the final frontier and all that. With only a two second delay on the phone. I struggle to get a decent phone signal in my dining room.

Peake is really making the most of his six-month stint in the ISS and it’s great to see how everyone has embraced it, especially the schools. My two are always coming home with news about what they saw Major Tim was up to today and sat transfixed at the broadcast of the live launch. We’ve also followed the details of when the ISS will be passing overhead and gone out and waved at it – yes, even me!

I’m aware that my inner geek is in danger of being outed with all this, but, nonetheless, it remains testament to what can be done if you have the imagination and the vision and, of course, the budget.

So why, when we can have a phone conversation with a spaceman over breakfast, can we not manage to adequately heat the homes of our most vulnerable citizens?

Last week (Feb 1-5) was Cold Homes Week, a campaign by AgeUK to highlight fuel poverty and excess winter deaths. The charity says that one older person dies every seven minutes from the cold weather and that many of these deaths could be prevented if everyone lived in warm home.

Age UK is calling on the Government to reform its energy efficiency programmes to enable all older people to live in a warm home, arguing, not unreasonably that the so-called flagship energy efficiency programmes, ECO and the Green Deal didn’t go nearly far enough to help older people keep warm in their homes.

Age UK is calling for the Government to:

  • reform its energy efficiency programmes
  • make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority
  • commit to bringing 2 million UK low income homes up to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2020 and all 6 million low income homes up to EPC Band C by 2025.

    Now, that call has been echoed by the right-leaning think-tank Policy Exchange. PX argues that improving home efficiency creates many jobs; combats fuel poverty; reduces air pollution; minimises carbon emissions; cuts fuel imports; benefits the balance of payments; and reduces the need to build new power stations. “It’s pretty much a no-brainer,” Richard Howard of PX told the BBC.

    The government is quite happy to consult on multi-billion pound plans for roads, rail, flood defences and energy, but doesn’t seem to see that making homes more efficient in the way they use energy is as important a part of infrastructure as how it is exaggerated.

    We can put a man in space, but we can’t help keep pensioners warm in their own homes? Not exactly an accolade to be proud of.

  • About Fiona Russell-Horne

    Fiona Russell-Horne
    Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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