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