Public Sector carbon targets double in face of economic gloom

New research released today by the Carbon Trust reveals that the public sector has doubled its determination to tackle climate change over the past five years despite facing difficult economic times.

Fresh analysis of 472 public sector bodies working with the Carbon Trust shows that average carbon reduction targets have almost doubled since 2006, rising from 16% to over 28% in 2011. This suggests that the government's ambition to cut the carbon emissions from the Central Government estate by 25% by 2015 is realistic and achievable. Given that the Carbon Trust ensures that public bodies underpin their targets with projects that more than pay back the initial investment, it also suggests that the Central Government Estate target will save the taxpayer money.

The findings are published today to coincide with the Carbon Trust's annual Public Sector Carbon Management conference.

The public sector has a vital leadership role to play in helping the UK to meet its carbon targets. Today's findings are very encouraging. The Government has set itself a 25% reduction target for its own estate, which is commendable. But it is exciting to see leading organisations elsewhere in the public sector matching that level of ambition, and saving the taxpayer money at the same time. Based on this evidence, we believe there is a case for this 25% ambition to be taken up by the wider public sector estate to ensure continued delivery on national carbon targets and further cost savings. Through our work with public sector customers, the Carbon Trust has identified £2bn of potential savings currently in the pipeline. But this will only be achieved with the right direction, leadership and expert support.

- Tim Pryce, Head of Public Sector


The University of Bath is one of the organisations being recognised for their carbon management ambition at this year's event. Since 2005, they have cut their annual electricity bill by half a million pounds by saving energy, and plan to cut their carbon emissions by 43% between 2005 and 2020.


The Carbon Trust's Carbon Management Programme has helped us reduce our carbon emissions during a period of significant expansion, and we have ambitions to go much further. Difficult economic times have increasingly led organisations like ours to recognise the value of cutting carbon emissions as a way of reducing our energy costs.

- Peter Phelps, The University's Energy Manager


Over the past eight years, the Carbon Trust has helped over 2,500 public sector bodies cut 12 million tonnes of CO2 and save £426 million (net of project costs) through projects that typically pay back in less than five years. Based on projects currently in the pipeline, it has identified a further £2bn in potential cost savings and 80 million tonnes in potential carbon reductions. To date, carbon management projects have included 292 local authorities, 102 NHS Trusts, 17 central government organisations and 110 higher education institutions.

According to the Carbon Trust, the public sector's top six carbon challenges are:

  1. Senior management not recognising the cost saving potential of setting ambitious carbon targets
  2. New government means a fast changing policy landscape around carbon reduction
  3. Human resource - Carbon managers / energy managers undervalued
  4. Lack of quality monitoring and targeting to track impact of projects - especially behaviour change projects
  5. Engaging schools can be notoriously complicated yet crucial for local authorities
  6. New build projects are typically consuming more energy than expected


For further information

For more information and to speak to a Carbon Trust spokesperson, please contact the Carbon Trust press office:
Tel no: 0207 544 3100

About the Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust is a not-for-profit company with the mission to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy, providing specialist support to business and the public sector to help cut carbon emissions, save energy and commercialise low carbon technologies. By stimulating low carbon action we contribute to key UK goals of lower carbon emissions, the development of low carbon businesses, increased energy security and associated jobs.

We help to cut carbon emissions now by

  • Providing specialist advice and finance to help organisations cut carbon
  • Setting standards for carbon reduction

We reduce potential future carbon emissions by

  • Opening markets for low carbon technologies
  • Leading industry collaborations to commercialise technologies
  • Investing in early stage low carbon companies