Carbon Diary: Greening Whitehall (and the rest of the service sector)
Today’s ambitious Government plans to cut emissions from its own departments by a third by 2020 are a major opportunity for unions to push for Green Whitehall demonstrator projects. Under the new targets, government will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 34 % by 2020 (from 1999 levels). 18 government departments produced a Carbon Reduction Delivery Plan (CRDP). Each plan sets out, in detail, the actions each department will take.
Complementing this announcement, on 1 April 2010 the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) kicks in. Unions like PCS, and the TUC, are publishing Guidance on the scheme. The CRC creates a CO2 cap-and-trade scheme in 20,000 of the largest public and private sector organisations in the UK – central government departments, local authorities, hospitals, prisons, schools, universities, shops, hotels and banks.
We’ve been pushing for the CRC energy efficiency scheme to credit employers if they “actively engage with employees to establish means of reducing energy usage”. A “tick box” in the official Guidance to the CRC sets out how this can be judged:
- energy management training is offered to the majority of employees.
- active employee working groups on energy management, which report to senior management, and take forward initiatives to reduce the organisation’s carbon emissions.
- where an independent trade union is recognised for collective bargaining, energy management issues are considered in these joint discussions, and members actively take initiatives to reduce the organisation’s carbon emissions.
The tick-box on employee engagement was included after the TUC asked DECC to insert this clause and it provides an opportunity for unions to argue for consultation and involvement in the scheme.
Who is covered by the CRC? Big energy users – at least 6,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity during 2008. That equates to about 3,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year (For nerds, this is a rate of 0.537 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt hour). At today’s prices, the electricity itself will cost £500,000 a year. Organisations will either have to save energy or buy the CO2 allowances – at a likely starting price of £12 a tonne.
So it’s time for unions to get round the table with management to take a first hard look at energy use.
- First step, for this year, is to calculate CO2 emissions – this is based on energy use over the ‘footprint year’ 2010-2011.
- Participants in the scheme then have to produce a ‘footprint report’ identifying their total CRC emissions.
- Then they decide how much to spend on emissions, and how much to save.
Those who do well and make an effort to save energy – and report positive engagement with unions and their employees – are likely to benefit from the scheme rebates. Let us know how you get on!