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The Future is ... Green


The first green accounts for a public sector body are published today.

A pioneering set of Environmental Cost Accounts are contained in the latest annual report from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). They focus on the environmental impacts and costs of its staff, facilities and operations. Using the latest scientific information available, Forum for the Future, a leading sustainable development charity, put an estimated price of £2.1 million on avoiding or restoring NERC’s environmental impacts. The main costs come from the energy consumed by its research ships, aircraft and buildings.

NERC Chief Executive, Professor John Lawton, said, “We need to be aware that our science causes environmental impacts and consider ways in which we can reduce our environmental ‘footprint’. I’m not saying that we should stop or reduce the scale of our world-class science, but we must set and achieve the highest possible standards for our own environmental performance.” “ We can hardly expect people to take the issue of climate change seriously and to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases if we’re not taking significant action ourselves,” he added.

David Bloomer, Director of Finance and Information Systems at NERC, is spearheading the Environmental Cost Accounts project which identifies NERC’s major impacts and highlights where it needs to improve its data collection. He said, “These accounts begin to put a price on the impact we have on the environment. Whilst there are issues to be resolved concerning some of the cost factors and emission measures used, I believe the accounts give us a good baseline to work from.” He continued, “ As we gain more experience in using the accounts they will become an important business management tool. They will help us to improve our performance and assist in our forward planning of policies for dealing with environmental risks and liabilities.”

To become sustainable NERC needs to reduce its emissions – around 32,000 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and methane – by about 60%. This will be a considerable challenge over the next few years. NERC is taking action to address its impacts and is setting up targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. It is measuring progress with performance indicators.

NERC is already putting its money where its mouth is. The new Environment Centre for Wales, announced last December, will benefit from an additional £1 million in funding to meet the cost of various environmental features. These include photovoltaic panels, a combined heat and power plant and a ground source heat pump. This extra funding should ensure the new facility is a showcase for sustainable building design in the UK, as well as benefiting the taxpayer by securing lower running costs.

Sara Parkin, OBE, Programme Director at Forum for the Future and a member of NERC’s Council, says, “I applaud NERC in taking these steps towards being more environmentally accountable. I hope that many more organisations will follow their lead . People need to accept that they can’t simply go on unheedingly polluting the environment. Producing a set of ‘green’ accounts is an excellent method for identifying where impacts on the environment could be reduced either through prevention or restorative measures. ”

Owen Gaffney | alfa
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