Government failing on pledge to lead the way to net zero, PAC says

Houses of Parliament

The UK Government’s commitment that the public sector should “lead by example” on the road to net zero is not being met, say MPs.

In a report today (31 October), the Public Accounts Committee is critical of the poor quality of emissions measuring and reporting across central government.

Responsibility for emissions reporting is split across three departments and the guidance issued is too vague, the committee says, this contributes to compliance with reporting standards being low across central government.

Despite the time and resources being committed by central government bodies, the Committee says it is not convinced that they or the wider public sector are using emissions data to drive decision-making.

Fewer than half of departments comply fully with the mandatory elements of HM Treasury’s reporting requirements, the Committee says. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy BEIS has overall responsibility for delivering net zero, but does not “hold individual departments to account”.

Government promised to lead the way to national decarbonisation but isn’t even putting its own house in order.

The Committee says that outside of central government there are currently no agreed reporting principles or standards. Different parts of the public sector have been developing their approaches to measuring and reporting their emissions. The public sector as a whole risks falling behind on emissions reporting and “could learn from developing practice in the private sector and the devolved administrations”.

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Dame Meg Hillier MP, said: “The targets set to maintain our world in a liveable state are not ‘nice to have’. Government made a legally binding commitment to deliver net zero by 2050.

“Government promised to lead the way to national decarbonisation but isn’t even putting its own house in order. Vague guidance and lack of follow-up make it hard for the public to hold the Government to account.

“A free for all on reporting veils progress or lack of it. Government needs to be clearer and must publish consistent standards for measuring and reporting emissions across the public sector so that it can be properly held to account.”

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