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Government Fails to Get its House in Order on Carbon, Water and Waste

7 March 2007


Government departments are failing to meet carbon, waste and water targets, according to a report published today (Wed) by the Government's watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission.

The report, Sustainable Development in Government 2006, assesses Government operations to ensure that resources are managed sustainably. It finds patchy data and poor performance across most areas:

- Departments generated more waste than last year. Total waste increased from 163,847 tonnes to 186,380 tonnes
- Nine departments could not provide proper waste data

- Departments are not on track to meet the carbon reduction target of 12.5% by 2010
- On average, departments have reduced carbon emissions by 0.5% since 1999
- However, 15 departments have increased carbon emissions since 1999*
- Most departments are using energy less efficiently than they did in 1999

- Departments failed to meet the target of 7.7m3 of water per person. Instead, departments consume an average of 10.2m3 per person
- The Cabinet Office was furthest from the target, consuming 19m3 water per person

- From reporting departments, CO2 emissions from road transport have decreased by 14% since 2002
- But this performance was devalued as eight departments were unable to provide proper data
- The Department for Transport has increased CO2 emissions from road transport by approximately 40% since 2002

However, Sustainable Development in Government did identify some areas of progress:

- Overall, recycling has risen by 8%. The Department of Health now recycles 85.4% of its waste

Renewable energy:
- Government is buying 3% more of its electricity from renewable energy sources, compared to last year

- Sites of Special Scientific Interest are well managed across the Government estate

The SDC report goes on to assess the performance of individual departments. It highlights the strong performances of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions - but criticises the very poor performances of the Cabinet Office, the Department for Transport, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Law Officers' Department, and the Export Credits Guarantee Department.

Jonathon Porritt, SDC Chair, says:
"Overall, Government performance is simply not good enough. Against a background of non-stop messages on climate change and corporate social responsibility, the Government has failed to get its own house in order. It's absolutely inexcusable that Government is lagging so far behind the private sector, when it should be leading the way.

"For Government to truly get to grips with this, it must ratchet up responsibility to the most senior level, instead of leaving it to hopelessly under-resourced officials down the line. It's time Permanent Secretaries were held accountable for meeting these targets."

Sustainable Development in Government concludes with recommendations for the future. According to the SDC, the Government must:

- Include sustainability targets in Permanent Secretaries' performance objectives
- Include all departments in a carbon trading system
- Provide departments and agencies with stronger support
- Focus on departments with the biggest impacts
- Extend targets to cover the entire public sector


* The departments which have increased carbon emissions since 1999 are: Cabinet Office, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Department for Communities and Local Government, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department for International Development, Department for Transport, Department for Work and Pensions, Export Credits Guarantee Department, Forestry Commission, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, HM Revenue and Customs, Home Office, Law Officers' Department and Office for National Statistics.

Notes to Editors

The SDC report, Sustainable Development in Government, is available to download from www.sd-commission.org.uk/sdig2006.

Environmental impact of the Government estate
The environmental impacts of the Government estate are considerable. It covers approximately half a million hectares, 2% of the UK's land mass. Each year, it produces approximately 806,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and 186,400 tonnes of waste, and consumes 25 million m3 of water.

Interim reporting year for Sustainable Development in Government
Last year, the Government introduced new targets for sustainable operations on its estate. These will apply to the next reporting year and subsequent years. The new targets can be found in Appendix D in the report.

As a result, this year the SDC has produced an interim report, which only covers targets relevant to the new structure. For this reason, year-on-year comparisons of ratings may be misleading.

This year's assessment covers 19 departments and their executive agencies. The SDC contracted Entec UK Limited to oversee data collection and analysis.

Contact: Hazel Dempster, Press at SDC, 020 7238 6606 / 07790 119 215

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