Letter: Not as green as we seem

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Sir: The UK has been able to adopt a distinctly "holier than thou" attitude during this week's Earth Summit negotiations on climate change. We are after all one of the few OECD countries currently producing lower emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, than we were in 1990 - thus fulfiling our commitments at the original Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

Before becoming too self-congratulatory, we should reflect on how we have achieved this feat. It has been primarily achieved by switching the sources of our electricity, out of carbon-intensive coal and into more nuclear and gas-fired production. It is not a trick we can repeat again, when seeking the promised deeper cuts in emissions.

It has long been acknowledged that the simplest and most publicly acceptable means of delivering such reductions is, as the Prime Minister stressed in his statement in the Commons, to improve our energy efficiency. Which is something we have singularly failed to do during this decade. The accepted way of measuring a nation's energy efficiency is to divide the gross national product by the amount of fuel consumed each year. This gives you your energy ratio.

During the period from 1945 to 1989 the UK measured a steady 1 per cent per annum overall improvement in the ratio. In each year (bar one) the nation's energy efficiency increased. But in each one of the first three years of this decade, we managed the depressingly awful feat of actually worsening our energy ratio. Last year, again, our energy consumption went up faster than our GDP. Not, I would submit, a reason to be very cheerful. Or even particularly holier-than-thou.



Association for the

Conservation of Energy

London N1