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Read Simon's article on the Guardian website

February 5, 2010 6:35 PM

Public sector greenhouse gas emissions rose by 6.25% in 2008 despite overall UK emissions falling by almost 2%, analysis of government figures showed today.

While sectors such as energy supply, agriculture, transport, businesses and industrial processes saw emissions drop, the public sector saw emissions rise from 9.6m tonnes of CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2e) to 10.2 MtCO2e. Housing was the only other sector with growing greenhouse gases, with emissions from domestic heating rising from 81.8 to 84.4 MtCO2e, or 3.1%.

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat shadow secretary of state for energy and climate changes, speaking at the Guardian Public Services Summit today, said it was a scandal that the one part of the economy directly controlled by the government had seen its emissions rise while other sectors fell. "How can the Labour government expect to be taken seriously at home and around the world if it can not get its own emissions under control? Last year the government rejected my motion to sign the public sector up to the 10:10 campaign. Either Labour has a lack of ambition or a lack of confidence or both," Hughes added.

Gordon Brown and the entire cabinet, the Tory shadow cabinet and the Liberal Democrat party have all committed to the 10:10 climate change campaign, which requires a 10% cut in carbon cuts by the end of 2010, compared to 2009.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The increase was predominantly due to increased natural gas consumption, most likely related to the colder than average October to December period [in 2008]. The public sector includes hospitals, schools and other buildings as well as central government departments."

The Met Office confirmed that overall those three months were below average temperatures, with spells of early snow in October. In October the mean temperature was 8.7C, 0.6C below the long-term average; November was 6.2C, 0.3C above; December was 3.1C, a considerable 1.1C below the average.

Last October, a move to force the government to join the 10:10 climate campaign and cut its own emissions by 10% in 2010 was defeated in the Commons. At the time, ministers argued that signing up the government estate to the 10:10 campaign would "make no sense". Greg Clark, the Tory shadow energy minister, said: "It is disappointing the government felt it had to vote down an eminently sensible bill."

An official government report last December showed it had taken 10 years for central government departments to cut their carbon footprints by 10%. "Central government has plans for a 17.8% cut by 2010/11, whilst the public sector as a whole has reduced its emissions by around a third from 1990 to 2007," said the Decc spokesperson. "But we continue to look at how we can go further, faster in cutting emissions. ."

The overall fall of nearly 2% for 2008 UK greenhouse gases means the government is on track to meet binding targets under the Kyoto protocol, but is likely to miss its own self-imposed target of cutting emissions 20% by 2010 on 1990 levels.