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Lower Carbon Futures

Publication Type:



Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK (2000)



Substantial carbon savings can be made by European households from increasing the efficiency of use of gas and electricity. Although this may not be a new message, it is still a necessary one. Kyoto targets are fast approaching, and delay in agreeing EU level efficiency targets compromises the ability of member states to meet their targets. In the UK, a delay of two years in implementing suggested EU policy has resulted in the potential for carbon savings by 2010 decreasing by 25%. Domestic energy consumption across the EU is still rising. To reduce this the main emphasis continues to be on the more efficient use of electricity, partly because this is the more polluting fuel in the EU, but also because product-level policy is the easiest to implement. The powerful approach of market transformation strategies, if supported by strong EU commitments, can improve the efficiency of products with certainty and speed. Around 3.7 MtC could be saved by 2010 in the UK, Netherlands and Portugal through policies to increase the efficiency of gas and electricity use, and to encourage fuel switching to natural gas in lighting, appliances and water heating. These savings would be achieved without any drop in the level of service provided to consumers and are delivered through the sale of more energy efficient LAWH and more gas fired appliances. The policies depend upon a strategic approach to carbon dioxide emissions in this sector that is strongly supported both in the member states and in the European Commission. Many new and innovative policy instruments have been identified to make these savings, both for energy efficiency and fuel switching, thus offering policy makers a variety of pathways to a lower carbon future.