UK Government slashes estate emissions by 35% in five years
The UK Government has slashed its own emissions by 35% since 2017/18, thanks to a “major efficiency drive”.
The fall in energy consumption is estimated to have saved taxpayers £122m.
The Government has committed to halving carbon emissions from the public sector by 2032, against a 2017/18 baseline, with a 75% reduction target by 2037.
Figures from its annual State of the Estate report, published last week, revealed that water consumption is down by 10% compared with 2017/18, saving the taxpayer £7.2m.
Meanwhile, departments sent fewer than 1% of waste-to-landfill in 2021-22, easily surpassing the target of 5%.
Overall 92% of waste within the Government is recycled, exceeding its 70% target. And it has reduced its paper consumption by 61%.
The report also showed emissions from government buildings are down by 10%.
Figures revealed more than £600m in sales receipts for the taxpayer from government property – such as offices and NHS buildings – sold in the past 12 months.
This has reduced the number of expensive London office spaces which are no longer needed, such as Custom House in the City of London and Windsor House in Westminster. It is in addition to savings of £2bn which will be achieved over the next three years through the Government Property Strategy.
Disposals of sites are only considered after their potential use for wider public objectives, such as supporting local services, have been fully considered.
Since the programme was launched in 2018, the number of core buildings in Central London has reduced from 67 to 43, or by around a third.
While reducing the size of its estate, the Government is also driving an agenda to make the civil service less London-centric as part of levelling up plans.
A number of Government Hubs have already opened or are under development, with civil servants from different departments co-locating outside central London.
For example, the new Birmingham Government Hub is saving more than £2m per year for the taxpayer by consolidating staff from 21 departments under one roof. Its location promotes green travel through local public transport networks.
To date, more than 11,000 government roles have been relocated out of London and across the UK under the Places for Growth programme. North West England has seen the most roles created, with around 2,100 jobs previously based in London now operating from cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, generating economic benefits to local areas.
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Whilst the reduction in estate emissions achieved by disposal of unneeded property is welcome news for taxpayers, has it resulted in any reduction in UK emissions? Unless these buildings have reached the end of their useful life, have been demolished and their materials recycled for low embodied carbon new construction, they continue with their emissions in the hands of new occupiers.
What can the operators of the government estate claim has been achieved in actual reduction in emissions? And by what measures other than by sitting on their hands while the carbon intensity of electricity supply diminishes?
Interesting that there’s no mention of hybrid working in tge article which would obviously mean lower impacts, but only if the facilities are manage to house people in open areas only. If we can all go back to what we think is our desk then there’s little direct saving from hybrid working. I do wonder what scope 3 commute and homeworking would add to this figure.