Sunday, June 22, 2008

Germany 'is world's greenest country'

Germany has been labelled the world's greenest country after it cut its energy use by more than any other state in 2007.

  • EU greenhouse gas emissions fall slightly
  • Follow Germany's lead, invest to save energy
  • Angela Merkel's green image under attack
  • German use of oil, gas and coal in 2007 fell by 5.6 per cent compared with 2006, according to a new report from BP. Global energy consumption, driven by China, America and India, rose by 2.4 per cent in the same year.

    A coal-fired power station in Berlin: Germany 'is world's greenest country' after cutting emissions
    Coal-fired power station in Berlin: Germany cut its emissions by 5.6 per cent

    The report emerged as the German government passed a new round of environmental laws designed to ensure the country meets ambitious carbon dioxide reduction targets.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the laws as "crucial for climate protection" and said they would help Germany reduce its 1990 level of emissions by 40 per cent come 2020.

    The laws, which target high polluting lorries and make energy saving designs compulsory for homes built after 2009, should allow Germany to shave 35 per cent off 1990 emissions.

    German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the extent of the laws was "the largest worldwide" and said that, with rising energy costs they amounted to "a money-saving programme, a piggy bank". He said Germany was looking at ways of cutting the final five per cent of carbon emissions to reach its 40 per cent goal by 2020.

    Nonetheless, Germany's Green party and environmental campaigners said the package did not go far enough, and criticised the shelving of proposals to tie car taxes to how much individual models pollute.

    Even the council of experts which helped advise the government while the laws were being drafted has said they do not take full advantage of emerging technologies.

    The influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that German legislation was dispensing with "'native' energies like nuclear and coal, while favouring Russian gas and oil".

    "The hens are doing the fox a favour by leaving the coop door open," it said.

    But while the BP world energy report confirmed that Germany made one of the world's biggest cuts in nuclear energy last year, with use falling 16 per cent on 2006 levels, it also revealed that oil and gas use was slashed too.

    Only coal consumption increased, as Germany's total energy use fell by 5.6 per cent.

    The UK, where oil and coal consumption also fell, managed an overall reduction of 3.8 per cent, making it runner up to Germany in European energy reduction. The EU as a whole reduced its energy use by 2.2 per cent.

    "Issues such as energy security, energy trade and alternative energies [are ] at the forefront of the political agenda worldwide," noted BP chief executive Tony Hayward. "Continued weakness in oil supply and increasing demand highlight the challenges we all face in maintaining secure energy supplies. "

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