ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE

27 July 2004 Report publication


27 July 2004 Report publication

Greening Government 2004

The Government appears to have abandoned monitoring policy and awareness aspects of the Greening Government initiative in a systematic and objective manner.  In addition, operational data on energy, waste, water, etc is weak, but nevertheless suggests that the performance of departments continues to vary hugely.   These are some of the key findings of the Environmental  Audit Committee in its latest report on the Greening Government initiative,  Greening Government 2004, published today.

Commenting on issues raised, the Chairman of the Committee, Peter Ainsworth MP, said:

"The Greening Government initiative is of immense importance.   Central departments are major employers and estate mangers, and also exert huge influence through the policies they are responsible for developing and implementing.  Yet our results indicate that there is a perceptible loss of momentum in the Greening Government initiative  - particularly on the policy side - and Ministers must demonstrate a new commitment if the Sustainable Development in Government report is really going to live up to its name. 

With regard to greening operations, I am very grateful to the Comptroller and Auditor General and his staff for providing audit support to this inquiry and look forward to further collaboration in this area on issues arising from our work.   The National Audit Office has raised various concerns in its memorandum, especially over the poor quality of data provided by departments.   This reflects a widespread failure to implement robust environmental management systems.  The Government has belatedly recognised the need for progress here, but it must do more to ensure that departments respond."

The Committee's report, its Eighth Report of Session 2003-04, HC 881, contains 20 conclusions and recommendations, some of which are reproduced below.   The report also includes, as an appendix, an analysis of departmental performance provided by the National Audit Office.  

For further information on the report, journalists may phone Committee staff on 020-7219-5776.

Key conclusions and recommendations of the report

[Some of the following extracts are not reproduced in full]

•The latest Sustainable Development in Government annual report is far narrower in scope and significance than previous Government reports in this series. It focuses only on operational management issues, and does not cover the mainstreaming of environmental objectives within policy development.

•It is regrettable that the Government appears to have abandoned monitoring policy and awareness aspects of the Greening Government initiative in a systematic and objective manner.

•We are disappointed that procurement remains a crucially important area where targets have yet to be set.  The implications of the huge growth in Private Finance Initiative are immense, given the need to embed far higher environmental standards within such projects, and this is a subject to which we intend to return in future.

•Our overall conclusion is that the picture of departmental performance emerging from the NAO analysis of the Sustainable Development in Government 2003 report does not differ substantially from our own analysis of operational data for the previous year.

•The Government should conduct a detailed analysis of the reasons for the large variations in departmental performance as it is unlikely that they relate to inherent differences in their estates and activities.

•Our findings indicate that, although progress continues to be made in some departments on some aspects of the Greening Government initiative, there is a perceptible loss of overall momentum - particularly in embedding sustainable development within policy making.

•We find it bizarre and highly unsatisfactory that the Government should have set a target of sourcing at least 10% electricity from renewables by 2008 when analysis of the latest data shows that 17 out of the 20 ministerial departments already meet - or in many cases significantly exceed-this target. The Government must explain why it has not set a more challenging target.

•It is regrettable that the Government should claim a likely carbon reduction in government departments of 29% by 2010 against a 1990 baseline, when the NAO has concluded that figures for performance from 1990 to 2000 are unreliable and cannot be audited.

The EAC report highlighted the following examples of variations in departmental performance:

-the percentage of staff covered by a certified environmental management system.  This ranged from 0% (CO, DfES, DfID, ECGD, HMT, LCD, LOD) to 70% for DWP, 80% for ONS and 100% for DCMS.

-the number of alternatively powered vehicles (including LPG). Of those departments with significant car fleets, the Department for Work and Pensions does commendably well, with 624 vehicles out of a fleet of 2852; whereas Customs and Excise, the Inland Revenue, and the Home Office, with 5836 vehicles between them, could only manage a total of 183 alternatively powered vehicles.

-the percentage of waste recovered.   Six departments were unable to produce any data, while the remaining departments ranged from 0% (Export Credits Guarantee Department) to 79% (Department of Trade and Industry).

-the percentage of renewable energy purchased.  Six departments purchased 10% or less of their electricity requirements from renewable sources.  By contrast, six other departments purchased between 50% and 90% from such sources.

-the proportion of desk-top paper purchased which met the recycling specification.  This ranged from 0% (Cabinet Office, Export Credits Guarantee Department) to 100% (Department for Culture, Media and Sport).     The performance of the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Work and Pensions, which between them account for over 50% of all desk-top paper bought, remains very poor (2% and 3% respectively)

Notes for Editors

1.The term "Greening Government" refers to incorporating environmental objectives in both operational aspects of departmental performance (eg by reducing energy and water consumption and recycling wate),  and in policy appraisal and development. Since its inception in 1997, the Greening Government initiative has formed a core part of the Environmental Audit Committee's work, and it has published various reports in this area.  Details of all the Committee's press releases and inquiries, together with its Reports and other publications, are available on the Committee's Internet home page.

2.The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee is its Eighth Report of Session 2003-04, Greening Government 2004, HC 881.     It comprises a critical appraisal of the Government's  Sustainable Development in Government Second Annual Report, published by DEFRA in November 2003.  It includes, as an appendix, a memorandum from the National Audit Office which analyses departmental performance on the basis of data made available as part of the DEFRA report.