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Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 02:42 GMT 03:42 UK
UN attacks Europe's fuel policies
Trucks
Protests are missing the enviromental point
By UN correspondent Mark Devenport

One of the United Nations' most senior officials has warned that the battle for clean air and sustainable energy is in danger of being lost as a result of the public backlash against high oil prices.

Mark Malloch Brown, the head of the UN Development Programme, was speaking at the launch of a UN-sponsored assessment of world energy trends.

Lorries
Worldwide, fuel consumption is increasing
He said environmental concerns were noticably lacking during the current protests in western Europe over high fuel prices.

"You didn't hear the British Government or its counterparts in continental Europe saying that the basis for high fuel prices was environmental concerns for clean air," he said.

"Rather they stressed law and order and resisting direct action and the need to have government tax revenues to spend on health care and education and other goals," he added.

Increased demand

The authors of the report believe the world's consumption of energy will double over the next 35 years.

Richer countries are becoming more efficient at using energy, but developing countries' consumption will more than outweigh this.

Tractors
Governments don't want to make the link between tax and the environment
Their demand is increasing by more than 4% every year.

The report acknowledges that the world's energy resources will not run out in the next 50-100 years, but it argues that there remains a need to use energy far more efficiently in order to limit negative consequences such as global warming.

Mr Malloch Brown says that 10 years after world governments focused on global warming at the Rio summit, there is a real risk that the battle for clean air and sustainable energy might be lost.

He argues for what he calls "smart energy policies" which encompass extending more modern forms of energy to the two billion people in poorer nations who don't have access to electricity.

He would like to promote greater use of renewable energy sources such as wind, water and solar power.

The UN report suggests these energy sources could be made more competitive by reducing subsidies on fossil fuels and making sure the environmental cost of burning oil or coal is fully included in their price.


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20 Sep 00 | In Depth
19 Sep 00 | Europe
12 Sep 00 | Europe
20 Sep 00 | Business
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