Monday, 11 May 2009

UK public sector is failing to reduce emissions

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC - the UK Government's independent adviser on sustainable development) has released a critical report on the public sector achievements to date in addressing climate change.

It compares progress against the Sustainable Operations Targets, which were launched in June 2006 by the Prime Minister - the full plan is here, but the chart below show the main climate change and energy aspects.



The report on progress is called 'Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) 2008: Challenges for Government' and can be seen here. Some of the main findings include:

- A 6.3% reduction in carbon emissions from offices since the baseline year. Whilst this is an improvement of 2.3% from 2006/7, government is still not on track to meet its carbon emissions from offices target.

- A reduction in carbon emissions from road vehicles of 10.3% since the baseline year. This is an improvement on 2006/07 results (which demonstrated a 1.5% increase) and also means that government is on track to meet its target.

- A 7.2% improvement in energy efficiency per m2 from the baseline year. Although this represents some progress, performance is down from 2006/07, when an improvement of 21.7% in energy efficiency per m2 from the baseline year was reported.

So it's not all bad news in terms of achievements, but the report does go on to criticise the proliferation of reporting methodologies, confusing governance structures and poor data quality.

Among the main issues that the report concludes with are the findings that:

- The government is not leading by example, or contributing enough to UK wide emissions target, as it is not currently on track to meet its own carbon
emissions from offices target.

- The full carbon impact of government’s operations and procurement, including the supply chain, has not been quantified. Full and accurate carbon footprinting is essential if emissions are to be reduced and sustainability goals are to be achieved.


In a country where emissions reduction is now enshrined in law (with CRC coming in next year) these are pretty damning comments. Clearly the public sector needs to do a lot more and quickly. I suspect the UK is not alone in its failings, either.

The implications are that the public sector will be increasingly looking for the ways and means to achieve targets and ICT will be a significant factor. It will need the software to manage its carbon footprint and IT to help generate reductions. It will involve both new contracts and close scrutiny of existing arrangements for potential emissions reductions. It's an opportunity for new public sector suppliers, but could be a challenge for existing contract holders.



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