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Blair government vows to go carbon neutral by 2012
Posted: 24 Jun 2006

All UK central government departments and their agencies will be carbon neutral within six years, Environment Secretary David Miliband has pledged. This promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming is part of the government's attempt to "model environmentally sustainable behavior to business and consumers," he said.

Becoming carbon neutral means that government bodies must prevent as much carbon emissions as they produce. Once carbon neutrality is reached, the government has set an additional target to reduce carbon emissions from government offices by 30 per cent by the year 2020.

The Cabinet Room at No. 10 Downing St, London. (Photo courtesy UK Government)
The Cabinet Room at No. 10 Downing St, London. New sustainability targets apply here as to every government building.
(Photo courtesy UK Government)
Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "We are taking another important step today when it comes to greening government, by committing to make by 2012 the government office estate carbon neutral and committing to reduce government's total emissions from buildings by 30 per cent."

Reducing carbon emissions

The measures to make government buildings carbon neutral will save at estimated 800,000 metric tons of carbon - the equivalent of taking 750,000 cars off the road, Miliband said.

Blair and Miliband were responding to a report published by the independent Sustainable Procurement Task Force. This business-led group is chaired by Sir Neville Simms and includes senior figures from both private and public sectors.

The task force recommends targets in six areas - carbon dioxide emissions, energy efficiency, waste, recycling, biodiversity and water consumption.

Sir Neville Simms said, "The message from the Task Force is simple: this is worth doing, it is not difficult, it will not cost more in the medium term and the dividends it will bring in the long term are clear.”

Sustainable Procurement Task Force Chairman Sir Neville Simms (Photo courtesy UK Government)
Sustainable Procurement Task Force Chairman Sir Neville Simms
(Photo courtesy UK Government). Meeting with task force leaders, the Prime Minister said he wanted his government to lead by example.
Meeting with task force leaders Monday, the Prime Minister said he wants his government to lead by example. "The government spends £150 billion (US$275.7 bn) a year on goods and services. Changing the way we spend this money, so it helps prevent climate change and protects our environment, could have a huge impact," said Blair. "This report points the way forward, and we will look seriously at its recommendations."

Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell has agreed to ensure that every department within the government responds effectively to the report's recommendations.

Sustainability targets

The government already has introduced 50 product specifications for sustainable goods and services which are available to government procurers. This will be extended to encourage market innovation and competition among suppliers to bring forward improved buildings, goods and services.

The Treasury offices, London. (Photo courtesy HM Treasury)
The Treasury offices, London. This and all government buildings are to be carbon neutral by 2012.
(Photo courtesy HM Treasury)
The government is also setting new sustainability targets for government offices buildings in areas other than climate emissions. It will attempt to reduce the waste generated by 25 per cent by 2020, and to recycle 75 per cent of the waste by that date.

The government will work to reduce water consumption by 25 per cent by 2020, and to increase energy efficiency by 30 per cent per square metre by 2020.

The biodiversity target asks government departments to meet or exceed the aim of having 95 per cent of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in sole ownership or control in target condition by 2010. There are more than 4,000 such sites in England, covering around seven per cent of the country's land area.

"Making the shift to a more sustainable lifestyle is one of the most important challenges for the 21st century," said Blair. "The reality of climate change brings home to us the consequences of not facing up to these challenges. I want the public sector to take a lead on doing things sustainably - through the way we run central government and through the way we buy goods and services."

Stephen Timms, chief secretary to the Treasury said, "We need to do more to get over the message that being more sustainable also means better value for money for the taxpayer, and we will be working with public sector organisations to ensure that this happens."

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