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Although improved technology and lower carbon fuels can make a substantial contr ...

Although improved technology and lower carbon fuels can make a substantial contribution to meeting carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets, a significant change in consumer behaviour will be required for the UK to make the transition to a low carbon economy and meet the UK government’s 2050 CO2 reduction targets. This was one of the main conclusions of a recent conference and workshop held by the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) in association with the Energy Institute (EI). The UK government’s CO2 reduction targets are for the UK to be on the path to a 60% reduction by 2050, with real progress by 2020. The reductions are based on 1990 levels of emissions. Under the global Kyoto Protocol the government is committed to a 12.5% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2008/2012 and a national goal of CO2 reduction of 20% by 2010. UKPIA Director General Chris Hunt commented: ‘We were greatly encouraged by the level of interest in this conference, which was heavily oversubscribed. On the day, we heard some thought provoking views from the presenters and had a constructive debate in the two workshop sessions, looking at the roles of technology/energy efficiency and behavioural change in reducing CO2 emissions. Clearly a lot can be achieved. The challenge is for the government elected on 5 May 2005 to frame clear consistent policy and work with industry and other organisations to develop solutions. Above all, consumers need to understand that technology can only take us so far and so there is a requirement for clear advice on a range of consumer energy choices that can start to make a difference.’ Speakers at the conference encompassed a wide range of organisations. Tony Grayling of the Institute for Public Policy Research expressed the view that the severity of the situation meant that the UK should aim for a 20% cut in CO2 emissions by 2010 and 40% by 2020 (from 1990 level), but warned that reductions would not be achieved unless government, industry and consumers took responsibility. Stephen Joseph of Transport 2000 said experience indicated it was possible to change behaviour and encourage less carbon-intensive travel. John Mumford of BP said consumers needed to be made more aware of their personal energy consumption in the home, in transport and even associated with the food they ate. Richard Tarboton of the Energy Savings Trust considered that influencing car buying and usage remained a key challenge, a theme echoed by Simon Barnes of the Society of Manufacturers and Traders, who pointed out that CO2 reduction had become a bigger influence upon fleet buyers than private buyers. Reduction could come from a number of areas including consumer behaviour, driver education, managing road transport demand, and improved vehicle and fuel technology. A summary of the conference and copies of the presenters’ slides are available on the UKPIA web site at under ‘Publications’, from where a pdf format copy of the recent UKPIA report Delivering a low carbon economy can also be downloaded.

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