The government will today be bracing itself for charges of hypocrisy, after its own watchdog revealed that whitehall departments are falling well short of targets on carbon emissions, waste and water use.
The report from the Sustainable Development Commission found "poor performance across most areas", and concluded that government departments are not on track to meet the carbon reduction target of 12.5 percent by 2010, with 15 departments actually emitting more carbon last year than they did in 1999.
Moreover, it found that departments also failed to meet targets on water conservation and actually produced more waste last year than in 2005.
While the results were labelled "simply not good enough" by the Commission Chairman Jonathon Porritt, perhaps the biggest indictment of the government's performance came in the number of departments that did not even have access to the environmental data requested by the Commission.
The report found that nine departments could not provide waste data, while claims that carbon emissions from departments' road transport had decreased by 14 percent since 2002 were undermined by the revelation that eight departments could not provide the correct data.
"Against a background of non-stop messages on climate change and corporate social responsibility, the Government has failed to get its own house in order," said Porritt. "It's absolutely inexcusable that Government is lagging so far behind the private sector, when it should be leading the way."
The only silver lining came in an increase in the amount of energy bought from renewable sources, a rise in the amount of material recycled, and the good performance of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Porritt added that the government had to do more to prioritise environmental issues amongst civil servants by giving them clearer sustainability targets and providing them with greater support. "For Government to truly get to grips with this, it must ratchet up responsibility to the most senior level, instead of leaving it to hopelessly under-resourced officials down the line," he said. "It's time Permanent Secretaries were held accountable for meeting these targets."
The report also recommended that all departments are brought into a carbon trading system; that greater focus is given to the departments with the greatest environmental impact; and that sustainability targets are extended to the rest of the public sector.
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