Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Monday, 23 October 2006 16:32 UK

UK 'tops energy wasters league'

Standby button (BBC)
Any device with a remote consumes electricity when on standby

Britons are the worst energy wasters in Europe with bad habits which could cost 11bn by 2010, a survey of Europe's five most populous nations suggests.

Leaving mobile phone chargers plugged in, appliances on standby and lights on are among their most common failings.

If the levels of wastage continue, an extra 43m tonnes of carbon dioxide will be pumped into the atmosphere by then, the Energy Saving Trust said.

It interviewed 5,000 people in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Figures in the Habits of a Lifetime report, commissioned to mark the start of Energy Saving Week, said 71% of UK consumers admit to leaving standby buttons on once a week.

Meanwhile, 65% of UK consumers leave chargers on once a week and 63% forget to switch the lights off when leaving the room.

1. UK
2. Italy
3. France
4. Spain
5. Germany
Source: Energy Saving Trust

The comparison with German consumers, who top the energy efficiency league, reveals major differences.

Britons leave chargers on three times as much as Germans, they leave standby buttons on twice as much and forget to switch off lights four times as much.

Almost half (48%) of Britons admit to using the car for short journeys rather than public transport, walking or cycling.

The Spanish were said to be the next most efficient users of energy after Germany, followed by France and Italy.

Gender gap

Philip Sellwood, EST chief executive, said: "As a result of this research, we are calling on the nation to undertake a series of daily habit-changing actions during energy saving week.

As a result of this research, we are calling on the nation to undertake a series of daily habit-changing actions during Energy Saving Week
Philip Sellwood, EST chief executive

"It is clear from the study we can't band everyone as 'a consumer'. The aim will be to galvanise the nation into breaking their energy habits one by one."

Within the UK, a number of interesting statistics emerged concerning age and gender.

Both men and women admitted about 32 energy wasting actions per week although 20% of males felt no guilt compared with 9% of the opposite sex.

Mild guilt

The survey found 27% of those aged 65 and over felt no guilt about the energy they use and its impact on the local environment.

Leaving devices on standby
Leaving chargers plugged in
Forgetting to turn off lights

According to interviews with their parents, 72% of children aged 16 and under regularly leave the lights on and almost two-thirds always leave computers, TVs and stereos on standby.

However, about a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds do feel moderately guilty about the impact their energy use has on the environment.

More than half of those surveyed (57%) said they would support the government introducing "environmental health" warnings on products which are not energy efficient while 49% believe more advice on energy efficiency should be available.

'Rising emissions'

Friends of the Earth, meanwhile, has called on more action from the government on climate change.

"We're not going to save the world by turning our TVs off standby," said the lobby group's parliamentary campaigner Martyn Williams.

According to FoE analysis of official data, UK carbon dioxide emissions rose in the first half of the year and are higher than when Labour came to power in 1997.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the UK has one of the best records of any country in tackling emissions.

"We are on target to cut CO2 emissions by 16% by 2010, but accept we need to do more to meet our 20% domestic target by 2010," a spokesman said.

"That is why we introduced new policies and measures. These will take time to kick in but by 2010 they will be delivering reductions."

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