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New centre of expertise for cutting carbon emissions across Whitehall

Government response to Sustainable Development Commission's Sustainable Development in Government annual report 2006/07

18 March 2008
CAB/029/08

A new Centre of Expertise is to be set up to help Whitehall departments achieve their targets for reducing carbon emissions and waste across the government estate.

Details of the Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Procurement (CESP) were unveiled as the Government published its response to the Sustainable Development Commission's latest report on how the Government is meeting its own sustainable objectives for tackling climate change.

Today's annual Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) report by the independent watchdog and adviser on sustainability shows a small improvement in the Government's overall performance against its key ‘eco’ commitments – including a four per cent fall in carbon emissions across the estate by the end of 2006/7. However, the Commission called on departments to urgently build on initiatives already taken to ensure targets can be met and to demonstrate that the Government is leading by example on sustainability.

The CESP will be set up within the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) alongside the Government's Chief Sustainability Officer – a new post to be appointed to take forward a culture of change across all departments in sustainable operations and procurement.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, who took personal charge of work in this area last March, has made sustainability of the government estate one of his four priorities for the civil service. Sir Gus said:

“The Civil Service must be fully committed to sustainable working, reflecting the increasing priority placed on environmental responsibility by the public we serve. We must find new and innovative ways of raising the bar for sustainable working, planning and procurement.

“There is still a long way to go but the establishment of the Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Procurement marks the culmination of significant progress over the last twelve months. This central co-ordination and guidance will help all government departments work to deliver sustainable working practices for the future.”

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.”

Nigel Smith, Chief Executive of OGC, also spoke about the way forward to ensure sustainable practice and procurement. He said:

“Government is taking the issue of sustainability very seriously, but we recognise that we need to do a lot more in order to meet the targets we have set ourselves. We can only do this if we build on the best practice that exists across Government, and if we have good and robust information, so that we know what's happening, what impact our actions are having and where the gaps are. I'm therefore delighted that the new Centre for Expertise is to be established in OGC, and that all Departments are committed to supporting its work.

“OGC has a strong track record in achieving quantifiable results across Government, based on robust data, clear standard-setting, and close and collaborative working with Departments to achieve delivery. We believe we are now well-placed to lead real change.”

The Government accepts in principle all the recommendations made by the SDC, and among the steps that will now be taken are the following:

In its response to the report, the Government accepts the need for more better and more accurate data against which the progress of departments can be measured. A major validation exercise to upgrade the quality of data provided to the SDC and the baselines used to assess performance has been undertaken in the past two months.

Notes to Editors

  1. The 2007 Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) report, published today, assesses the performance of central Government operations for 2006/07 against the targets of the Framework for Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE). It can be found at www.sd-commission.org.uk [External website]
  2. The Government's formal response to the 2007 SDiG report can be found at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/reports/sustainable_development.aspx
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