According to figures published by green watchdog the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), government departments are doing well in most areas including waste and water reduction and cutting unnecessary car journeys.

But these successes are eclipsed by the departments’ failings when it comes to cutting carbon emissions from their offices.

They are also missing targets on sourcing energy from combined heat and power.

The figures, for the last financial year, show that vehicle emissions are down over 10%, after going up by 1.5% the previous year.

Waste was down nearly 29%, compared with a reduction of just over 5% last year, although slightly less was recycled.

Water consumption was down almost 18%, compared to just 0.1% last year.

But on the energy front, things are looking bleak for a government that says it wants to lead by example.

Just 22% of the offices’ electricity is coming from renewable sources, down on last year’s 28% while the target of sourcing 15% of energy from CHP by 2015 seems a long way off, with departments currently using the technology to meet less than 9% of their energy needs.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment, however, is the government’s offices lack of success on carbon targets.

Carbon emissions from offices are down 6.3% since the baseline year, an improvement of 2.3% from last year, but still not on track to meet the 2010-11 target of a 12.5% reduction.

Rebecca Willis, vice chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, said: “It’s great to see departments finally starting to prioritise their sustainability duties and make progress in many areas.

“And we look forward to seeing the results of recent initiatives, like the new Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Procurement, translate into stronger results next year.

“However, there’s still a long way to go – and it’s clear that these targets must be the start of an ever more ambitious sustainability programme. In the current climate of volatile energy costs and financial constraints, these targets make good economic sense.

“And now that the UK has committed itself to a world-leading 80% cut in emissions by 2050, and the Committee on Climate Change has recommended a reduction of 34% by 2020, the government needs to demonstrate in practice how such cuts can be met.”

Sam Bond

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