Govt ‘still failing’ on sustainable development

Government departments across Whitehall are failing to meet their carbon emission reduction targets, a report finds.

The Sustainable Development Commission’s annual assessment of the government’s progress notes emissions are down four per cent on 1999/2000 levels.

But it warns individual departments are “still not on track” to meet the 12.5 per cent target by 2010/11.

“Radical and urgent” steps are now required, the report says. These include progressive budget cuts for energy and utilities budgets and a central invest-to-save fund to finance capital investments in sustainable development.

The commission’s vice-chairperson, Rebecca Willis, said the government needed to “put its own house in order” if it is to provide an example to the private sector.

“Failure is not an option,” Ms Willis said.

“These targets must be the first step in a journey towards much greater sustainability; yet progress to date has been far too slow.”

The report showed carbon emissions from government vehicles increased by four per cent compared to 1999/2000, showing “no progress” towards the 15 per cent reduction target.

But over a quarter of electricity used was from renewable energy sources and recycling levels are just 1.5 per cent short of the 2010/11 target.

The government has announced plans to establish a new Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Procurement in response to the report.

This will be set up alongside the creation of a new chief sustainability officer post within the Office of Government Commerce.

Environment secretary Hilary Benn said: “In the year that has elapsed since the period covered by this report, departments have been working to cut emissions, waste and water use and to increase recycling levels.

“The measures we’re announcing today will help us to do better in the year ahead.”

Ms Willis welcomed the government’s acknowledgment of the report’s concerns. She added: “We are pleased to see that the government appears to be taking the concerns we raise in this report seriously.”