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Government 'fails to meet its own environmental standards'

Only 9 per cent of all new government buildings meet the government's own environmental standards, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has found.

The committee said that environmental assessments, which are mandatory under the government's regualtions of its estate, were carried out on only a third of all new buildings, adding that the government ‘should practice what it preaches’.

Each year the government spends nearly £3 billion on new buildings and major refurbishments to its estate.

However, a report issued today (15 January) said the Treasury, Defra and the Office of Government Commerce are not leading or supporting government departments in ‘adopting sustainable approaches to their work’.

The report also found that government departments are ‘making poor progress against their environmental targets for estate management, which include significant reductions in water consumption and carbon emissions’.

The report added that departments are not assessing the operational performance of buildings properly, and even claimed that the poor performance is a result of the ‘low priority’ afforded to hitting sustainability targets.

Committee chair Edward Leigh said: ‘Departments in general are clearly taking a cavalier approach to the sustainability of their new buildings. It goes without saying that the systems for monitoring compliance with environmental standards are poor and that there is no overall responsibility for making sure that fine words about greener government buildings are translated into action.

‘The government should practice what it preaches and set an example for others to follow. The message must be driven home that sustainability can and should deliver better value for money over the whole lifetime of a building.'

In a statement, the government said: 'We welcome the report's findings in recognising the good work that has already been done to ensure the sustainability of government buildings.

'The government is fully committed to delivering on its sustainability agenda, and demonstrating best practice. Performance monitoring is key in building on the existing good work in this area and there has already been active engagement by departments in the Office of Government Commerce’s Property Benchmarking Service, which will be compulsory from April this year.

'The government will respond in full to the Committee’s recommendations in due course.'

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