Government greenhouse gas emissions decrease 5%

Between 2001 and 2002, the Government’s emissions of greenhouse gases decreased by 5%, and recovery of waste in four departments was over 50%. Nevertheless, there are areas in which the Government could do better.

According to the Government’s first annual report on its own sustainable development, the worst greenhouse gas offenders were the Department for International Development, with a 16% increase in carbon emissions per square metre of office space, the Serious Fraud Office, with a 23% increase, and the Scottish Court Service, with a 25% increase. The Government’s shining lights were the Department of Health, with a 39% decrease in emissions of carbon per square metre of office space, closely followed by the Home Office, Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise, with 19 to 35% cuts.

The Department for the Environment (DEFRA) reported a 4% increase in its carbon emissions per square metre, as did The Treasury, which, a couple of weeks ago, was the subject of reports accusing them of installing a low efficiency air conditioning unit.

Seventeen departments now purchase a proportion of their energy from renewable sources. The Cabinet Office central London estate purchases 75% from renewables, and 27% of the Department for Work and Pensions’ entire usage is from renewables.

Water conservation is also measured in a number of departments. By March this year, eight departments had achieved a target to reduce water use in some or all of their office buildings by 11 cubic metres per person per year.

“People are expecting more from the Government on these issues,” said Environment Minister and Chairman of the Greening Government Committee, Michael Meacher. He stated that it is vital that the Government practices what it preaches on sustainable development and that it reports not only on what it is doing well, but on areas that need improvement.

Fourteen departments collect data on the amount of waste that they produce, 10 of which are able to report on their total amount of waste and the percentage that is recovered. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is at the top of the class, recovering 98%, followed by the Department of Health, with 81% recovery. Below them are the Department for Work and Pensions, with 55% recovery, the former Department for Transport and the Local Government Regions, with 51% recovery, and DEFRA, with 47%.

The Government has also made a commitment to buy its timber from sustainable and legal sources. Departments are required to achieve standards for all new projects of at least ‘very good’ and refurbishment projects should achieve the ‘good’ standard by March 2002.

In April, however, environmental campaign group Greenpeace revealed that the refurbishment of the Cabinet Office in Whitehall had included doors made of sapele wood from Cameroon which had been illegally logged. One-hundred-and-twenty protesters went into the building and replaced a number of the doors with their own doors made from sustainably managed wood. Thirty-nine of them were arrested, but have recently been informed that the Government will not be pressing charges, a Greenpeace spokesman told edie.

The Cabinet Office has since carried out an investigation into its timber procurement activities. The report revealed that the contractor carrying out the work had not received a clear statement of the Government’s commitment to purchase sustainable timber products.

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