We need regulation to reduce this waste of energy

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This report illustrates yet again what we all know but somehow fail to address: it is often not the demand for energy, but waste of energy that is driving us towards radical climate change.

We can all take steps individually: turning off lights when we are not using them and installing energy-saving light bulbs. However, we do not have the luxury of time to allow individuals to save the world by their action. Governments must act to ensure that we see a peak and then a decline in global emissions of carbon within the next 10 years. Otherwise, we run a severe risk of the global climate changing so rapidly we have no chance of adapting in time.

The Government must play a central role. It should require the most efficient lighting in all new buildings. It should reward owners and occupiers of energy-efficient buildings through lower business rates, council tax and stamp duty. And it should make more money available for energy-efficiency programmes. At present it is impossible to find government money to replace inefficient lighting in school buildings, for example.

The UK should urge on its EU partners a market transformation programme so that inefficient lighting and other energy-wasteful appliances disappear from sale. This could be achieved by banning the most offensive appliances, labelling the rest to encourage consumers to purchase the most efficient, and ideally also using the tax system to underline the message: through, for example, differential rates of VAT.

There is no real mystery about how to encourage consumers to use energy more sparingly. As with any market transaction, cost plays a role. But there are social policy concerns and - largely unfounded - worries about competitiveness which constrain governments from raising the price of energy to the level at which it would be used to maximum efficiency. So a suite of measures is needed to support the basic price signal and overcome some of the inertia - energy saving is rarely at the top of anyone's agenda, even if it would be economically rational to behave differently.

This Government has some things to be proud of: the Energy Efficiency Commitment - an obligation on fuel suppliers to invest in energy-saving in the domestic sector - has been an effective programme, for example. But overall policy has been disjointed and unambitious. The Environment Secretary, David Miliband, also promised last week that he would bring forward new measures to ensure that Britain meets its target to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2010.

Ten ways to save energy

* DO NOT LEAVE ELECTRIC APPLIANCES ON STANDBY, BUT SWITCH THEM OFF

The average household wastes £37 a year leaving appliances on standby.

* INVEST IN FRIDGE/FREEZERS THAT ARE ENERGY-EFFICIENT

Energy-efficient fridge/freezers cut carbon dioxide emissions, produced indirectly, by up to 190kg per year.

* INSULATE HOT-WATER TANK

If every household fitted a jacket on its tank tomorrow, we'd save over £95m of energy every year.

* RE-USE WATER

Collect grey water (already used in sinks and baths) in water butts to water plants and flush toilets.

* WASH CLOTHES ON 40C

Using a 40C wash cycle rather than 60C uses a third less electricity.

* DO NOT OVERFILL KETTLES

If everyone boiled only the water they needed, we would save enough electricity to run nearly half of the UK's street lighting.

* INSULATE ATTIC AND WALLS

Nearly 50 per cent of heat lost at home is through the roof and walls.

* DOUBLE-GLAZE WINDOWS

Heat loss is cut by up to 50 per cent with double glazing.

* INSTALL SOLAR PANELS

Solar roof tiles can generate half of an average family's electricity.

* TURN DOWN THE THERMOSTAT

By turning down a thermostat by one degree, an average family will save six per cent in energy (£30 a year in heating bills).

Geneviève Roberts

Information from Energy Saving Trust

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