The web-based report is the second annual review of implementing sustainable development across all 20 Departments.1 The initiative, which grew out of the series of "greening Government" reports, marked a step change in the transparency of Departmental reporting (ENDS Report 336, pp 15-17 ).
In November, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee drew on last year's report to mount a strong criticism of Whitehall's performance. It criticised the Government for falling well behind schedule in setting targets under the cross-Whitehall sustainable development framework, for failing to carry out environmental appraisals of policies, and generally for lacking commitment to mainstreaming sustainable development (ENDS Report 346, pp 40-41 ).
The new report confirms many of the Committee's concerns. While Departments have moved ahead in areas such as waste and renewable energy, overall progress been limited:
The Government now admits that the targets are "unlikely to be met". In 2002/03, only 13 Departments had achieved certification - the same as in 2001/02 - and these generally covered only a small number of central buildings.
Finalised data for 2002/03 are not yet available, but preliminary results suggest that the target was met for the third successive year. Total CO2 emissions were down by 3% on the previous year - but there was considerable variation between Departments. The Ministry of Defence cut emissions by 7%, while emissions from civil Departments increased by 5%.
Another target was for Departments to purchase at least 5% of electricity from renewable sources by March 2003. This target was largely met, with all 20 Departments purchasing some renewable energy, up from 13 the previous year. Six, including the Cabinet Office, International Development and the Treasury, purchased more than half of their electricity from renewables, though the MoD only managed 3%.
Some Departments have made improvements in water consumption, but only two met the target of 7.7m3 per employee. The Treasury and the Home Office are the most profligate users at almost 13m3 per head.
Despite the improvement, there is still scope for another embarrassing gaffe such as the Home Office's use of illegal timber at its new offices in London (ENDS Report 341, p 35 ). Seven Departments spent around £164,000 on timber products with no evidence of their legality.
In 2001/02, six Departments installed air conditioning systems based on HFCs - despite the Government's policy to favour alternatives to these powerful greenhouse gases. In 2002/03, seven of the 15 Departments which fitted new air conditioning systems used HFCs. Among them was the Environment Department - which argues that "at the time of procurement HFCs were permissible".