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Reducing Government emissions … not just about the numbers

With 100 days left to reduce central govt emissions by 10% or 74,000tCO2, with 19 departments and 3000 buildings and over 150 initiatives, and DECC has reduced its emissions by 100tCO2 in 9 months (against a target reduction of 134tCO2 this year) … But this isn’t just about numbers.

We were set a real challenge last year when the PM, just 3 days into the job said that he wanted this to be the greenest govt ever. To get the ball rolling, he set a target for central government buildings to lead the way by reducing carbon emissions by 10% in that year (14 May 2010 to 14 May2011). We weren’t starting from scratch – by 2008/09 the government had reduced its emissions by 10% (on a 1999/00 baseline), and DECC itself had reduced emissions by 20% in 2009/10 compared to the previous year.

So began a process for DECC and Cabinet Office to work with all departments to help them identify projects, to ensure they knew what these projects would deliver, to establish a baseline from which to measure the reductions, and to communicate this work to staff and the wider public.

I’ve been busy setting up a Ministerial Working Group, chaired by Greg Barker, which has ministerial representatives from the largest emitting departments (MOD, Justice and DWP), as well as ministers from Cabinet Office, Treasury and Defra. Private sector representatives (such as Tesco, B&Q and EDF) helped to challenge our ideas, and inspire us with their energy-saving ideas, and departments are called in to account for their reductions to date, and their plans for the rest of the year. I’ve also been talking to a whole range of different departments, service providers, energy efficiency experts, facilities managers, investors and advisors to ensure that we’ve got the best set of advice to offer to departments.

The Cabinet Office has developed a set of key priority actions (with support from Carbon Trust and CIBSE), which gives guidance on essential activities, such as setting temperature ranges for buildings, and reducing unnecessary lighting. We have worked with the Behavioural Science Unit in Cabinet Office to draw up some behavioural change ideas for staff, and kicked this off with a inter-department  competition, to see which HQ building could reduce its emissions the most during October. DWP won, managing a massive 22% reduction in October compared to September.

DECC has been working hard itself to reduce emissions, looking at a wide variety of activities, such as installing a new chiller unit, adjusting our heating and cooling systems, and piloting work with staff. This has meant I’m on the receiving end of my own policies, as I have “scrunched” up in the office in the evenings (so that some floors can be shut down), turned off my monitor every time I leave my desk, and have brought in an extra jumper to wear in the office for those times when it feels a little colder than before.

All of our progress, including plans, graphs and blogs, can be found on the website and anyone interested in seeing how much energy is used by an HQ building at 3 in the morning compared to 3 in the afternoon can check out information from our real time displays, which update hourly. The DECC one can be found on our home page, and updates every 5 seconds.

The heat is on to keep up progress (though we’ve turned down the thermostat), and the spotlight is still on to see if we meet the target (though with an LED bulb). There’s a lot still to do, but with a dedicated and experienced set of people throughout government, managing the estate more and more effectively every day, and the benefit of thousands of committed and dedicated staff, I’m sure we’ll manage it.

7 Responses to “Reducing Government emissions … not just about the numbers”

  1. There is a real opportunity to establish a shift in society where the responsibility of an individual is to be aware of their net energy use. I say net because with the opportunities presented by micro generation off set and reduction can go hand in hand. With a combination of legislation and encouragement and booming costs could we see a shift comparable to drink driving? Could the waste of energy become societally unacceptable?

  2. Kate Hughes says:

    We hope we’ve done it – now just need to wait for the data to come through, it will be end of June before we can say for sure…

  3. Paul says:

    So did you meet the PM’s target ?

  4. Respected Kate Hughes, thanks for a good and informative article. Really this is a big challenge BUT not impossible. Best Wishes. Some important suggestions from me are at facebook site of British Embassy, Guatemala City at Thanks.

  5. Kate Hughes says:

    Thank you for your comments!

  6. Sergio Villaverde says:

    Your article put a smile on my face this morning! Thank you!!

  7. Matthew Gray says:

    Great article Kate!

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