Daunted by sky-rocketing oil prices, Group of Eight ministers said at a meeting in Japan that domestic efficiency and new technology were key to ensuring energy stability and avoiding a global recession.
High oil prices could have drastic economic ramifications, said Japan's energy minister
Ministers from the world's seven industrialized countries plus Russia met in the northern Japanese city of Aomori, a hub for the country's nuclear energy industry, on Sunday, June 8, ahead of the G8 summit to be hosted by Japan on July 7-9.
Representatives from China, India and South Korea joined the G8 countries.
Prior to the meeting, oil prices had hit a new record on Friday, climbing to over $138 (88 euros) a barrel. The 8 percent increase marked the biggest ever one-day surge.
"If we leave this situation as it is, it could lead to a recession of the world economy," Japan's energy minister Akira Amari said on Sunday in an opening address. "Ensuring energy security, including stability of the oil market, has become one of the top priorities for every country."
Climate change linked to energy
Amari said the 11 countries meeting in Aomori together consume 65 percent of the world's energy and release 65 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions.
"Climate change and energy issues are two sides of the same coin," he said. "It is indispensible to solve these problems together."
The participants pledged to launch 20 test projects by 2010 on so-called carbon capture and storage, which involves catching carbon emissions from power plants and injecting them into underground storage areas.
Germany wants to phase out nuclear power, but not all G8 powers agree
While the technology for carbon capture and storage is not yet fully developed and remains hotly disputed, advocates say it could allow the earth's abundant supply of coal to be processed without polluting the environment.
Nuclear energy remains a divider
Differences of opinion among the participants on the expansion of nuclear energy were not bridged at Sunday's conference.
"I think we're on the verge of a new nuclear age and that will be a positive thing for the world," said John Hutton, British secretary of state for business enterprise and regulatory reform.
However, Germany's economics minister, Jochen Homann, said Berlin would stick by its plan to phase out nuclear power completely by 2020.
More efficiency, not more oil
Nevertheless, the participants seemed in agreement that increasing energy efficiency and investing in alternative technologies, including carbon storage, were essential to taming energy prices.
"[On] energy efficiency, and energy diversification, we all recognize that tremendous progress has been made but more has to be done," said Gary Lunn, Canada's natural resources minister.
Europe, Japan and the US have already discussed the possibility of setting up a framework for exchanging information on energy-saving, called the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC).