Headlines: November 9th, 2006

PUBLIC SECTOR TOLD TO PLAY PART IN CUTTING CARBON EMISSIONS

 

Public sector bodies have been told they need to become more energy efficient to help combat the effects of climate change. The Environment Secretary, David Miliband, called on the sector and on big commercial organisations to do their bit when he launched a consultation on cost-effective ways to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas levels. He told the Environmental Industries Commission that large non-energy intensive organisations had to play a part in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The consultation is seeking views on the most cost-effective measures to reduce emissions from big non-energy intensive concerns, such as companies and public organisations, by 1.2 million tonnes of carbon a year by 2020. It looks in detail at two options, an Energy Performance Commitment and a voluntary system of reporting and benchmarking. It will focus on organisations whose energy usage would roughly equal electricity bills above a quarter of a million pounds a year at current energy prices. Around 5,000 organisations fall into that category, including large local authorities, universities and central government departments as well as supermarkets, hotel chains, rail operators and large offices. Together they emit about 15 million tonnes of carbon annually.

Mr. Miliband said the organisations concerned had significant potential to achieve cost-effective carbon reductions by improving energy efficiency. “Climate change threatens greater economic damage than the two world wars and the Great Depression put together. In the future, every industry should be an environmental industry. In a world where energy and carbon emissions are constrained, every business must take resource productivity seriously,” he said.

Proposals in the consultation for achieving emissions savings include an Energy Performance Commitment; a voluntary system; longer-term changes to building regulations; enhancing information provision and advice to business and industry-led agreements to reduce emissions. The Energy Performance Commitment would be an auction-based “cap and trade” programme and participants would buy an allowance corresponding to their anticipated emissions from energy use. Total energy use emissions would be capped by the Government which would also decide on the number of allowances issued for auction.

Meanwhile new Government analysis has revealed that millions of tonnes of carbon and billions of pounds in fuel bills could be saved by simple measures such as cavity wall insulation and it has called for more to be done to give householders the information and support they need to make changes to their homes. The initial report from the Review of the Sustainability of Existing Buildings shows that millions of homes across the country could benefit from cost effective improvements.