KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Governments should make energy efficient appliances and building materials compulsory because that is the smartest way of controlling greenhouse gas emissions, a U.N. expert said Tuesday.
The technology for making appliances that use less electricity — such as light bulbs, air conditioners and refrigerators — already exists, but manufacturers don't make them because there is no legal push, said Marcel Alers, a climate change expert of the United Nations Development Program.
Using such appliances means power plants will burn less coal to produce electricity, leading to a reduction in emissions that contribute to climate change and its effects — flooding, rising sea levels, melting of polar caps and forest fires, among others.
''Voluntary is nice, but if you want impact, it has to be mandatory,'' Alers told reporters after giving a presentation at a conference on climate change organized by the Malaysian government and the UNDP.
The daylong conference discussed Malaysia's position ahead of a planned U.N.-organized summit in Bali, Indonesia, in December to open negotiations for creating a new regime to succeed the Kyoto Protocol on reducing carbon emissions and preventing climate change.
Alers said governments should introduce mandatory labeling and quality controls that ensure appliances adhere to a minimum performance standard. Manufacturers ''know how to do it. But they won't do it if they are not being forced to do so,'' he said.
For example, power-guzzling incandescent bulbs, which rely on 120-year-old technology, are still being widely used around the world, even though low power consumption lamps are commonly available. Lighting accounts for 10 to 20 percent of the global energy bill.
Governments also can enforce laws on the use of energy efficient and energy conservation materials in buildings, such as double glazing on windows and solar water heaters, Alers said.
Although energy efficient appliances are more expensive, the extra cost is easily recovered from the lower electricity bills over the life time of the appliances, he said.
''There is a large number of things that can be done with the knowledge and the technology that exists, but it just needs a little bit of political will and a little bit of push,'' he said.
Alers noted that for all the bad press that coal and fossil fuel get, the reality is that they will remain an important part of the energy mix of all countries over the next 100 years.
''It's just a fantasy to believe that we can just continue development over the next century without use of coal. It is simply not going to happen. So we will have to find ways of dealing with it, using them in a way that it releases less carbon,'' he said.
Alers said he was hopeful that the Bali conference would lead to some kind of a binding agreement within the next two years by all countries including major polluters China, India, the United States and Australia on making commitments to reducing emissions.