The loophole in the coalition’s 10:10 carbon pledge

The Coalition are using a loophole to help achieve their 10:10 carbon pledge. The Sustainable Development Commission warned about the ruse before being scrapped.

Entering office, David Cameron used a visit to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to announce that one of his flagship green policies would be to cut the government’s own emissions of carbon pollution by 10 per cent in their first twelve months in office.

This was in response to the high profile 10:10 campaign, which has been promoted by The Guardian. The campaign calls on individuals, businesses and governmental organisations to make 10 per cent cuts in 2010 and has signed up over 65,000 people, 2,610 businesses and 3,100 organisations and educational institutions.

The movement includes Royal Mail, Lovebox music festival, Tottenham Hotspur football club, and the Tate Modern as well as celebrities such as Delia Smith, Colin Firth and Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox.

In 2009, with the government under pressure to reduce its own emissions in exactly this way, the Sustainable Development Commission (since axed by the coalition) warned about a loophole that would allow the government to claim carbon reductions, which weren’t actually real. The SDC advised:

“There are ways that Government could cut its own reported carbon emissions considerably, by – shifting emissions elsewhere rather than genuinely reducing them. For example, it could contract out activities such as ICT, reprographics and some Government services. This would not help to tackle climate change. The SDC urges the Government to be open and transparent about the ways in which carbon can be reduced, to allow others to learn from their experience.”

In a parliamentary answer the Energy Minister, Greg Barker, confirmed the government would use this loophole. The Labour MP Gregg McClymont asked ‘whether the notional reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from the (a) outsourcing of Government services and (b) sale of Government buildings will be included in the target for a 10 per cent year-on-year reduction in the level of carbon dioxide emissions from the central government estate.

Barker confirmed they would be included – but would not be the sole basis of the planned 10:10 reduction. He replied:

While outsourcing and rationalisation of the Government estate can and will deliver towards the 10% savings, the ministerial working group established to ensure the delivery of this emissions target has indicated that it is not acceptable to deliver the savings on the basis of these alone.”

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