Green government

“Unless government takes serious action to cut its own carbon dioxide emissions, it will lack credibility in its challenge to society to do the same. The reputational risk for government is huge.” Sustainable Development in Government (SdiG) 2007 report, Sustainable Development Commission, 2008


What is a sustainably managed government estate?

greening the government estateSustainable development is about “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' – in other words not living beyond our means.

You can find out more about sustainable development on the Defra website.

The government has said that it wants to 'embed sustainability at the heart of Government' by ensuring departmental business plans adhere to Sustainable Development principles. Read more on the Defra website.

10% cut in carbon emissions by May 2011

On gaining office in May 2010, teh Prime Minister annoinced that all government departments shoudl reduce theri caron emissions by 10% in a year. The results of this were publisshed in July 2011 and show that the overall figure was in fact a nearly 14%. reduction. See the press release on the DECC website.

Sustainability targets 

A set of 'greening government' targets was first introduced in the 1990s. These were replaced by Framework for Sustainablle Development in Government targets in 2002 and later, in 2006, Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) targets.

In 2010 the coaltion government introduced a new set of 'Greening Government commitments' which will replace the SOGE targets at the end of 2011. You can view these on the Defra website.

An 'Action Plan for driving sustainable operations and procurement across government' was also published in November 2010.

Carbon reduction delivery plans

In 2009 departments were asked to publish a Carbon Reduction Delivery Plan by Spring 2010. These set out in detail the actions that departments will take to reduce emissions in the sectors of the economy they are responsible for as well as from their own estate in order to deliver carbon budgets.

Carbon delivery plans should include the following;

  • details of the aims of a department and how they relate to climate change and the size and components of their department carbon budget;
  • details of the policies and measures the department will be implementing to ensure delivery of emissions reductions and their carbon budgets
  • indicators and milestones to be used to track and report on progress;
  • governance arrangements and how they will work with other departments, the devolved administrations and other delivery partners.

Most plans also include actions that departments are taking on adaptation to climate change.

The carbon plans of lead departments. (DECC, CLG, Defra and Dft) contain more detailed information on how progress will be tracked in specific sectors of the economy.

The following departments have published carbon reduction delivery plans:

Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) reports

The independent watchdog the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), which was abolished in March 2011, used to monitor performance of central government operations against the government’s targets. The SDC annually published the Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) Report.

These reports were critical of government failure to meet the targets it set for its own departments. The last report,  'Becoming the Greenest Government Ever' was published in July 2010. It is available on the SDC website.


Work and well-being sustainability talks

In 2008 the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) carried out an inquiry, to which PCS submitted evidence, into the sustainability of government operations.

In July 2008 the EAC published a report, Making Government operations more sustainable: A progress report, that is very critical of government performance. The report concludes: “Overall performance by Government departments and agencies in tackling carbon emissions has remained extremely poor”.

The report recommends that “OGC {Office of Government Commerce} should work with civil service unions to ensure that staff are trained, motivated, and empowered to take a leading role in mainstreaming sustainability in Government operations.”

Following this report, talks began in 2009 as part of the CCSU/Cabinet Office/OGC 'work & wellbeing' negotiations, on sustainability in civil service departments, agencies and NDPBs.  For more informaion see the Becoming a greener union report.

You can download the full report EAC report at the UK Parliament website.

You can see the PCS press release in response to the EAC report on the news pages. 

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