Parliament accused of hypocrisy over environment

The Houses of Parliament have been slammed for failing to reduce their environmental impact.

The Houses of Parliament have been found to have a worsening environmental record

The Houses of Parliament have been found to have a worsening environmental record

In a new report to coincide with MP's return to Westminster after the summer recess, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary Norman Baker MP accuses Parliament of hypocrisy in failing to play their part in efforts to tackle climate change and other environmental concerns.

"It is all very well for us as MPs to call on the general public to act and take measures to protect the environment, but how can we expect them to listen if we do not do this ourselves?" Mr Baker asked.

"This report highlights the disturbing lack of action by the national parliament itself to clean up its act and lessen the environmental impact of its own activities. On a whole range of issues, from cutting energy use and water consumption to recycling waste and reducing food miles, our parliament is going the wrong way."

Embarrassingly for parliamentary authorities, the report shows that, since 1997 when Labour came to power, water consumption has risen by 58%; electricity consumption has risen by 45%; and that gas consumption has risen by 34%.

This means that the Houses of Parliament now use enough electricity to supply over 5,000 households, enough for a small town the size of Newhaven, east Sussex, and enough gas for 102,687 households.

It would also take 2012 trees to be planted every year to offset the carbon emissions, enough to form a wood up to 72 acres or large enough to cover the entire site of the Palace of Westminster 9 times.

In addition, the report shows up MPs total lack of awareness in connecting their own activities with environmental impact. For example, despite the fact that recycling bins are provided, rubbish is still put in general refuse; light bulbs and appliances are left on when MPs are away; and MPs enjoy perks on car parking and travel allowances despite excellent public transport links.

"I hope that this report will help the parliamentary authorities to identify the areas that need rapid improvement in order to lessen the environmental impact of our activities here in parliament," Mr Baker said.

The Liberal Democrats' report comes shortly after the Environmental Industries Commission wrote to environment minister Elliot Morley to criticise the government over the lack of energy efficiency technologies in use in large public sector construction projects, despite the government's commitment to ensure that public procurement contributes to improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

One EIC member company claimed that out of 70 public sector projects they tendered for, only two had specific energy efficiency requirements in the tender documentation.

The EIC has urged the government to act in setting out clear mandatory requirements for energy efficiency in all large public sector building projects and to audit compliance with them.

David Hopkins


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