Britons accused of wasting more energy than anyone else in Europe

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The Independent Online

British people waste more energy than the inhabitants of any other major western European nation, hastening climate change and adding £2.5bn to annual fuel bills, according to research.

A poll of 5,000 Europeans by the Energy Saving Trust found the average Briton admitted to 32 bad habits such as leaving lights on in empty rooms, more than twice as many as the most energy conscious nation.

In interviews last month released for the start of Energy Efficiency Week today, Germans admitted to having 14 energy wasting habits, the Spanish 16, the French 19 and the Italians 25.

By contrast, the UK was revealed to be a nation of "standby junkies", with 71 per cent rarely if ever switching off televisions, DVD players, computers and other electrical appliances.

Two-thirds of people boiled surplus water in kettles, and 65 per cent left mobile phone and other chargers needlessly plugged in to the mains. Two-thirds left lights on in empty rooms.

Householders could save £11bn in fuel bills by 2010 by eliminating the waste as well as prevent the release into the atmosphere of 43 million ton of carbon dioxide, estimated the EST. It calculated the unnecessary carbon dioxide was equivalent to the annual emissions of 7 million homes.

The poll, conducted in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy by ICM, revealed that Britons wasted the most energy.

The only area in which the British performed well was in donning extra clothing rather than turning up the heating. Among the details, British men and women were equally likely to waste energy, though men were less likely to feel guilty about it. One in five men felt no guilt at all.

In terms of age, the most profligate groups were children, of whom their parents said 70 per cent made no effort to save energy, and the over-65s, of whom 27 per cent made no effort to save energy.

However the report found support among 57 per cent of people for official "environmental health" warnings on inefficient products.

Philip Sellwood, chief executive of Energy Saving Trust, said that 40 per cent of the population appeared to be resistant to energy efficiency."We, in the past five or six years, have been living on the energy cheap and perhaps that's why people haven't paid the attention we want. And now with energy bills approaching £1,000 if you can reduce you bills by £300 through a few no-cost simple measures then that is something I think even the relatively well-off will pay attention to," he said.

Amid growing political concern over climate change, 404 MPs have signed a Commons Early Day Motion calling for a new law requiring annual cuts in UK emissions. The call is backed by the main opposition parties.

Last month, one of global authorities on the subject, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, warned that Britain had just four years to plan a low-carbon economy where petrol stations would be redundant in order to do its bit to avoid climate change.

The study said the UK must cut emissions by 70 per cent in the next 30 years; the Government's target is 60 per cent by 2050.

Scientists believe climate change caused by greenhouse gases has been behind extreme weather in recent years, such as Hurricane Katrina last year.

Britain's bad habits

* 71 per cent leave appliances on standby

* 67 per cent boil more water than needed in kettles

* 65 per cent leave chargers plugged in

* 63 per cent don't turn off lights in empty rooms

* 48 per cent use the car for short journeys

* 44 per cent wash clothes at 60F

* 32 per cent leave the engine running while the car is stationary

* 32 per cent use the tumble dryer when the washing line could be used

* 28 per cent have the central heating on in an empty house

* 22 per cent turn up the thermostat instead of reaching for a jumper