Government failing its own sustainability targets

Nearly two-thirds of Government departments are not on track to meet carbon reduction targets for offices and their transport emissions are still growing, a new report has revealed.

The Sustainable Development Commission study showed overall emissions from offices have fallen by 4% since 1999 but most departments are not expected to meet a target to reduce office emissions by 12.5% by 2010.

Following publication of the report, Government announced it was setting up a new Centre of Expertise to advise its departments.

The report was published just days after Government announced Whitehall departments would be included in the Carbon Reduction Commitment.

It found vehicle emissions were also up 1.5% from 2005, despite a target to reduce them by 15% by 2010, and the commission criticised limited progress in reducing water consumption or sourcing electricity from combined heat and power.

Energy efficiency per square metre has improved by 21.7% since 1999 – but only because of the efforts of the Ministry of Defence. Across the rest of Whitehall, energy efficiency has worsened by 3.3%.

Rebecca Willis, vice chair of the commission, said: “Government as a whole needs to take radical action to put its own house in order if it is to be in a position to lead by example. Failure is not an option.”

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, who took personal charge of improving the civil service’s sustainability last March, said: “We must find new and innovative ways of raising the bar for sustainable working, planning and procurement.

“There is still a long way to go, but the establishment of the Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Procurement marks the culmination of significant progress over the last 12 months.”

Environmental charity Global Action Plan, which advises businesses on how to reduce their emissions, said private businesses are setting the good example.

Director Trewin Restorick said: “Government on the other hand is leading from behind, offering supporting words not backed up by any substance.

“If we are truly to address the challenges of climate change, Government has to lead by example. We hope this report finally stimulates them into action.”

Kate Martin

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