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UN summit 'fires starting gun' for energy efficiency race

More than a year of discussions on global climate change has been kicked off following a United Nations summit in New York, with worldwide policies on the issue likely to be created as a result.

Over 120 high profile leaders attended the event, which set out what the UN hopes to achieve between now and a key gathering scheduled to take place in Paris in December 2015.

It's hoped that countries will be able to work together to find a solution to limiting the effects of climate change, with the question of how levels of energy efficiency can be improved likely to be a key focus over the next 15 months.

The UK is taking a leading role in proceedings, having already pushed for EU targets. However, in order to achieve success on a global level, China, India and the US will also have to commit to ambitious goals that will not only see them increase funding and awareness of energy efficiency, but also invest in greener sources of power.

Secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey said he was "proud" of the UK's participation in the summit and that the summit had "successfully fired the starting gun" to a critical 15 months of climate diplomacy.

Meanwhile, energy and climate change minister Amber Rudd said: "For our climate change agreement to be lasting and successful it must result in long-term economic stability and growth for everyone. 

"The move to a green economy offers a great opportunity but this can only come if world leaders unite to provide certainty, clarity and confidence."

New York's commitment to energy efficiency

One positive indication of the direction that policymakers' attentions are being focused towards is the raft of energy efficiency measures set to be introduced in New York.

The UN summit host city's mayor Bill de Blasio recently revealed details of a $1 billion (£610 million) plan to significantly reduce the power consumption of the region's buildings.

Commercial and residential structures account for approximately 75 per cent of the area's power useage, but Mr de Blasio argues this can be decreased if the property owners themselves show a willingness to invest in improving their energy efficiency with the support of grants from the authorities.

While it remains to be seen whether the private sector will be as forthcoming in spending its own money, the use of legislation to force the matter could be an option further down the line.

The global benefits

There's certainly an argument for change on a global scale if recent research by the International Energy Agency is taken seriously.

Its study - 'Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency' - suggests that the worldwide economy could be boosted by up to $18 trillion over the next 20 years if leaders make adequate investments in green measures.

This includes the implementation of building improvements like solid or cavity wall insulation to help reduce the amount of energy a property requires to be heated, while also focusing on the research and development of sustainable power sources.

However, getting everyone to pull in the same direction is so often easier said than done - and the next 15 months could indeed be crucial if we are all to reap the benefits of an environmentally-friendly future.

Posted by Rachel Jenkins