Demos is launching a new project on the role of public services in tackling climate change. The research will look at the crucial role the public sector can play in driving the move to a low carbon economy, while at the same time reducing the public sector’s estimated £4 billion annual energy bill.
It is widely recognised that to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change, we must limit global temperature increase to no more than two degrees, yet current levels of global emissions growth are predicted to cause a global temperature rise of up to six degrees. Strong action is urgently required to drastically reduce global carbon emissions.
Cutting the carbon footprint of our public services is an important step toward reaching the UK’s ambitious emissions reduction targets (set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act), accounting for around 5 per cent of the UK’s emissions.
There also exists a second, related imperative: energy efficiency has an important role to play in making public services more efficient – a key concern in the context of the current public finances and the all-party consensus that the deficit must be reduced in the coming years – and some of this reduction must come through making public services like education, health and council services more efficient.
The public sector should be leading the way in reducing emissions through its activities and behaviours – and has the potential to become an example of best practice to all citizens across all sectors. With an annual energy bill of around £4bn, efficiency measures of just a few per cent represent potential savings of millions of pounds as well as significant reductions in the sectors carbon footprint.
The current approach to delivering this efficiency is not working. Despite a plethora of targets, commitments and stratergies, between 2007-08, public sector emissions rose by over 6 per cent, from 9.6 to 10.2 MtCO2e.
Demos' research will consider what’s not working with the current approach. It will explore what a successful strategy to bring down public sector emissions might look like based on a thorough investigation of current capacity and capabilities in the public sector. The methodology will include original polling of public sector managers (including from schools, the NHS, the central government estate, local government and higher education); qualitative focus group research with public sector managers; and case studies.
This project will be a flagship piece of research within a new research programme at Demos, the Public Finance Programme, which will consider how to consolidate public finances in an era of post-recession austerity, while ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable in society are not left worse off by the financial crisis.
We are currently seeking funding for this project. For more information, contact William Bradley.