A Defra report has revealed that the government failed to meet its own targets for cutting the environmental impact of the state’s operations, The Guardian has reported.
The “greening government commitments”, which began when David Cameron declared he would lead the “greenest government ever” in 2010, were intended to deliver big cuts in carbon emissions, domestic flights, waste and water use.
Efforts fell short on all counts, although the reductions that were achieved still saved taxpayers £185m in the last year, according to the report published in December 2015.
Ministers have been heavily criticised for cuts to a swathe of green policies, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, and a leaked letter in November revealed the government was not on track the meet the nation’s EU obligation for green energy in 2020.
A 25% cut in carbon emissions from government buildings and travel in 2014-15 compared with 2009-10 had been targeted by ministers, but only 22% was achieved. The failure was largely caused by the Ministry of Defence, which accounts for half of all government emissions and which cut its emissions by 19%.
Emission cuts came largely from improved energy efficiency and accounted for 90% of the money saved. But the government recently slashed efforts to improve energy efficiency in people’s homes by 80%. George Osborne’s Treasury, often blamed for the government’s anti-green moves, cut its own emissions by 56%, one of the largest savings.
More than 169,000 domestic flights were taken by government officials in 2014-15, unchanged from the year before. This represents an 18% reduction compared with 2009-10, but falls short of the 20% target.
Just eight of 22 departments met the target, while domestic flights by environment department staff actually increased and those from the culture department more than doubled. Health department flights plummeted, however, by 62%.
Waste reductions also failed to improve last year, with the overall cut at 22% compared with the 25% target. The Department of Energy & Climate Change’s waste went up by 18%, while that at the Department for Education fell by 62%.
On water use, just six departments managed to meet the good practice benchmark set as the target. Twelve of the 22 departments met a target on transparency on the steps they were taking to be greener and the government as a whole slashed its paper use by 38% overall, far above its 10% target.
“While the headline achievements may fall slightly short of the targets set for 2014-15, the picture at department level shows that many departments are meeting and exceeding targets, while others are recording valiant reductions in face of significant operational challenges,” said ministers Oliver Letwin and Rory Stewart in a foreword to the report.
A spokesman for the environment department said: “Following this success we are developing a new set of greening government commitments to see how we can go further, making the UK even greener.”