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Europe and U.S. Warned Over Rising Energy Use

Sep 18, 2007 - International Herald Tribune

Despite the growing political commitment to tackling global warming, individual energy use and carbon emissions in the leading industrial countries have actually increased in recent years, the new head of a major energy advisory group said Monday. Nobuo Tanaka, the first non-European chosen to lead the International Energy Agency, said during an interview that Europe, Canada, Australia and particularly the United States had to do much more to increase energy efficiency if they wanted to have any credibility when calling on India and China to act.

"The leading industrial countries are not on a path to sustainable energy future," said Tanaka, a Japanese economist and diplomat who became the IEA's executive director Sept. 1.

"There was a big effort to increase efficiency during the 1980s because of the oil price shocks," he said. "But these efforts subsided over the 1990s.

The statistics were released in Berlin as energy and environmental ministers from 20 countries met to prepare for the United Nations climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, in December. They should shift some of the spotlight away from India and China, which along with the United States are among the world's biggest producers of CO 2 emissions.

The IEA serves as an advisory body for the big energy consuming nations - industrial countries belonging to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.

According to Tanaka, from 1990 to 2004, energy consumption by households increased to 26 percent from 23 percent of total energy consumption, while services increased by one percentage point to 14 percent. Passenger transport jumped to a 26 percent share, from 23 percent, and freight transport by one percentage point to 11 percent.

Despite some improvements in vehicle and engine technologies, these have been offset by consumer preference for bigger sport utility vehicles, which consume more fuel and increase congestion. One way to reduce this big expansion of such cars, particularly in Europe, would be to increase the taxes on such vehicles.

"We are talking about a lifestyle issue which the agency will soon have to address," Tanaka said.

The increase in consumption was reflected in changes in CO 2 emissions too.

Emissions for households remained at 23 percent as a share of total emissions, while services rose by one percentage point to 17 percent and passenger transport increased to 22 percent from 21 percent.

The one major sector in which energy consumption and CO 2 gases fell was manufacturing.

"The reason is competition," Tanaka said. "With globalization, manufacturing companies have had to become more competitive if they want to survive. That means cutting back on energy costs."

He said governments were still failing to give sufficient incentives to the household and services sector to encourage them to become more efficient. "There should be ways to make energy- efficient households more attractive to buy," Tanaka said.

The agency's findings also feed into the debate about the future role of nuclear energy - a major political issue, especially in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who heads the Group of 8 group of leading industrial countries until the end of this year, has made climate change one of her main foreign and domestic issues.

Merkel is aiming to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2020, increase energy efficiency by 3 percent a year, and expand renewable energy.

While praising such ambitions, Tanaka questioned how that could be done without nuclear energy playing a role.

But Merkel's coalition government of conservatives and Social Democrats is divided over nuclear power, with the Social Democrats committed to phasing out all nuclear power and the conservatives wanting to retain it.

Originally published by The New York Times Media Group.

(c) 2007 International Herald Tribune. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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