Documents considered by the Committee on 18 March 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents

23 Greenhouse gas emissions from EU institutions and buildings

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document detailsCourt of Auditors' Special Report No. 14/2014 on how the EU institutions and bodies calculate, reduce and offset their greenhouse gas emissions
Legal base
DepartmentEnergy and Climate Change
Document number(36417), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

23.1 The European Court of Auditors says that the European institutions should lead by example in support of EU climate policy, and this Special Report assesses how the larger institutions calculate, reduce and offset[51] their greenhouse gas emissions. It identifies a number of key findings which are accompanied by a series of recommendations, and it sets out the various responses, the most significant of these being from the Commission, given in particular its power of legislative initiative. After some considerable delay, we have also now established the Government's views, which broadly support the Court's recommendations.

23.2 This report provides an essentially factual account, has no policy implications, and does not raise any issues requiring further consideration. Nevertheless, we believe its subject and findings are of interest, not least in identifying the variability (and, in many cases, the inadequacy) of the measures taken by the different institutions. We are therefore drawing it to the attention of the House.

Full details of the document: European Court of Auditors Special Report No. 14/2014: How do the EU institutions and bodies calculate, reduce and offset their greenhouse gas emissions? (36417), —.


23.3 According to the European Court of Auditors, if EU climate policy to be credible, the European institutions must lead by example, and this Special Report assesses how the European Environment Agency and all EU institutions with more than 500 staff[52] in 2012, have calculated, reduced and offset their greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, it examines the extent to which they have made use of the environmental management tools promoted by the Commission, notably the voluntary Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and green procurement.

23.4 The report's key findings are that:

·  the full carbon footprint of the EU institutions and bodies is not known, as six of those assessed do not report their emissions, whilst those doing so do not report either consistently or comprehensively;

·  emissions from the EU institutions as a whole are falling, but only in relation to the energy consumption of buildings: emissions from 'mobility' have increased in some institutions, but decreased in others;

·  over half of the assessed institutions had not set any quantified emission reduction targets, and only two (the European Parliament and the European Investment Bank) had quantified targets for 2020;

·  offsetting is used to a limited extent, and there is no common approach;

·  progress in introducing the eco-management and EMAS has been slow;

·  green procurement is currently an option, not an obligation, and, whilst all of the institutions assessed (except for the European External Action Service) used it to some degree, only the European Environment Agency and the European Central Bank did so across the board;

·  green building standards for energy performance are not used systematically for new buildings and renovation projects.

23.5 The report goes on to recommend:

·  that the Commission should propose a common policy to reduce the emissions of the European institutions, including a quantified overall target for 2030, and an absolute reduction target in relation to a baseline year;

·  harmonised calculating and reporting of emissions;

·  a common approach to voluntary offsetting, including requirements that all offsets are high quality and provide eco-benefits (such as local sustainable development);

·  full implementation of EMAS and green procurement across all EU institutions.

23.6 Of the institutions assessed in the report, all but the European Parliament provided replies, the most significant being that of the European Commission (because it is the most detailed and holds the power of legislative initiative). It agrees that there should be a common policy, but does not believe there should be quantified overall targets in relation to a base year; agrees with the recommendation on calculation and reporting, subject to the successful development of the relevant methodology; agrees that there should be a common approach of voluntary offsetting; and agrees as regards green procurement.

The Government's view

23.7 The Explanatory Memorandum provided by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr Edward Davey) on 30 October 2014 merely provided a factual account of the document and suggested that there were no policy implications. However, we felt it would be helpful to know how the Government viewed the key findings, and whether it agreed with the Court's recommendation. Our Chairman therefore wrote on 5 November asking for this information.

23.8 We have now received — very belatedly — a letter of 10 March 2015 from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Amber Rudd), which says that:

·  the UK supports the recommendation that the Commission and other EU institutions should reduce the carbon footprint of their administrative operations;

·  the Energy Efficiency Directive places obligations on Member States to renovate 3% of the total floor area of premises owned and occupied by central government each year or take alternative measures;

·  the UK has adopted the latter approach under its Greening Growth Commitments which are a set of sustainability commitments, including a 25% greenhouse gas reduction target by 2014/15 on 2009/10 levels for central government estates and operations, which should ensure that the UK is fully compliant with this requirement[53]; and would encourage the Commission and other EU institutions to make similar commitments;

·  supports the recommendation that EU institutions and bodies should introduce a harmonised approach for calculating and reporting their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, taking account of international best practice and methods for national greenhouse gas inventory compilation;

·  similarly supports the recommendation that EU institutions develop a common approach to offsetting their emissions on a voluntary basis; and

·  endorses the development and use of the EU Data Centre Code of Conduct and is broadly supportive of the EU Green Public Procurement criteria for voluntary use by Member States, many of which are used in the UK, and encourages EU bodies and institutions to utilise these tools in their own procurement processes.

Previous Committee Reports


51   Offsetting involves paying for emissions to be reduced business as usual levels in another part of the world in order to compensate for emissions elsewhere. Back

52   The 15 bodies are the European Commission; European Parliament; European Council / Council of the European Union (treated as one because of their co-location); European Investment Bank; Court of Justice of the European Union ); European External Action Service; European Central Bank; European Economic and Social Committee / Committee of the Regions (treated as one because of their co-location); European Court of Auditors; Office for Harmonization of the Internal Market; European Aviation Safety Agency; European Medicines Agency; European Environment Agency. Back

53   Ministers have recently agreed a one-year extension of this target so that departments and their bodies which have not yet met the 25% target will continue to aim towards this goal in 2015/16. Further longer-term targets will be considered following the General Election. Back

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