Public sector ramps up CO2 targets

12th December 2011

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Many hospitals, universities and local authorities have almost doubled the level of their carbon reduction targets since 2006 despite tough spending cuts, according to a new survey by the Carbon Trust.

The poll of 472 public sector organisations working with the trust to cut carbon emissions reveals that in 2011 the average CO2 reduction target was 28%.

When the trust last asked the question, the figure was 16%. One organisation surveyed, the University of Bath, is even planning to cut its emissions by 43% between 2005 and 2020.

According to the trust, the findings imply central government’s aim to reduce the carbon footprint of its estate by 25% by 2015 is not only achievable but could be rolled out more widely.

“The public sector has a vital leadership role to play in helping the UK to meet its carbon targets,” said Tim Pryce, the Carbon Trust’s head of public sector. “It is exciting to see leading organisations in the public sector matching central government’s level of ambition, and saving the taxpayer money at the same time.” Pryce went on to reveal that the trust has identified £2 billion of potential savings in its work with public sector organisations, but warned they can only be achieved with “the right direction, leadership and expert support”.

David Dowson, environment officer at Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, says that the Carbon Trust’s findings reflect his experiences. “Targets in the public sector have gone up over the last few years. At Worcestershire NHS Trust we have a reduction target of 20%, but I know others with 30% targets.”

Dowson agrees that reductions goals of 20%–30% are realistic for most public sector organisations, but calls on the government to consider putting in place rewards to help environmental managers to gain the level of support needed to drive such targets. “If central government offered financial incentives to organisations that achieve tougher targets, of say 25%, this would make it easier to get senior managers’ commitment,” he said.


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