Radical action needed to green government, says watchdog

The government needs to take “urgent and radical action” to reduce the impacts of its operations, green watchdog the Sustainable Development Commission said on Tuesday

The Sustainable development in government report, on performance in 2006/07, paints a picture of patchy performance by government departments.

On the positive side, the commission says that recycling targets are well on their way to being met – 38.5% of waste from the government estate was recycled in 2006/07, almost meeting the 2010 target of 40%. And the target to buy electricity from renewable sources of 10% by 2008 was exceeded with 28.3% achieved in 2006/07.

But carbon emissions from vehicles increased by 1.5% compared to 2005/06 – showing no progress towards meeting the target of a 15% cut by 2010/11 – an area of “serious concern”, the SDC says.

And nearly two-thirds of departments were not on track to meet their office carbon emissions reduction target of 12.5% by 2010/11. Emissions in 2006/07 were just 4% down on a 1999/2000 baseline.

Energy efficiency per square metre improved by 21.7% from the same baseline, higher than the target of 15% by 2010, but only because of improvements made by the Ministry of Defence. Energy efficiency across the rest of the government estate actually worsened by 3.3%.

The report suggests that senior civil servants should have sustainability targets incorporated into their personal performance objectives to drive change.

The commission also says departments must agree a common policy to reduce transport emissions by encouraging more sustainable transport options and alternatives to travel. A target to cut emissions from air travel must also be developed.

A government response to the report accepts all of the recommendations. It is to set up a new centre of expertise for sustainable procurement within the Office of Government Commerce to coordinate performance management.

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