SEPA admits it's not easy being green - but sustainability is a worthwhile challenge

  27 October 2014
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published a new report today (30 January 2014) demonstrating that being sustainable throughout all its work has proven a challenge for the Agency.

The ‘Sustainable SEPA’ report (which can be viewed here) demonstrates the Agency’s achievements (for the period covering 2013 – 2014) in improving its environmental performance.

The Agency has achieved all of its environmental targets it set for 2013 – 2014 covering travel and transport, waste, biodiversity and procurement. These successes include:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all transport and travel by a further 9.6% during 2013 – 2014, including a 10% reduction in emissions from business car travel and another 22% drop in emissions from flights.  These figures are the latest in a sustained reduction in emissions from transport and travel which has seen the number of business miles almost halved in five years and the number of domestic flights reduced by 85% since 2006 – 2007.
  • Recycling 72% of its waste (which is well above the Agency’s target to maintain levels of recycling and re-use above 65%).
  • Implementing a range of biodiversity projects across its estate.
  • Achieving a 10% sustainability weighting in its procurement of eligible goods and services.

Despite these successes, the report shows that keeping pace with its ambitious long term greenhouse gas emission target remains more challenging. SEPA aims to reduce its overall emissions by 42% by 2020 based on a 2006 – 2007 baseline. While the Agency’s emissions are 11.9% lower than the baseline year, its total emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 2.75% during 2013 – 2014.

This rise was expected as a result of the migration in autumn 2013 of around 350 SEPA staff to the new Angus Smith Building. During the migration, the Agency occupied both this new combined laboratory and office in North Lanarkshire and its existing buildings simultaneously for a six month period. The Agency expects emissions to reduce now that the older buildings have been disposed of.

New targets set within the report for 2014 – 2015 include:

  • maintaining or further reducing transport and travel emissions at 2013 – 2014 levels;
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings by 5% compared to 2013 – 2014 levels;
  • maintaining levels of recycling or re-use above 65%.

James Curran, Chief Executive, of SEPA, said:

As Scotland’s environmental regulator, acting sustainably is at the heart of our business. We take our responsibilities to maintain our environmental performance and set a good example to members of the public and businesses throughout the country very seriously.

“This year our travel and transport emissions reduced by 10% compared to last year and this continues a sustained downward trend. We can also be proud that we have exceeded our target to recycle waste and have made great strides forward in biodiversity management and procurement.

“However I admit that I’m frustrated by reporting a 2.75% rise in our overall carbon emissions.  While this was an expected increase as a result of the biggest ever change in our estate, we also understand that we should be at the forefront of current thinking on reducing carbon emissions.  As a result we are in the process of modifying our buildings to be fewer, smaller, more energy-efficient and electrically heated.

“We believe that the most sustainable long term strategy is to heat our buildings by electricity, using power drawn from a Scottish grid that is substantially provided by renewable sources.  Scotland is well on the way to greening its grid, however we have to use a UK grid conversion factor for our reporting. 

“This year, therefore, we have for the first time made our own estimate of SEPA’s emissions using a carbon conversion factor for a Scottish, rather than UK, electricity grid to better reflect our real-world impacts. I’m pleased to report that our estimate of our overall emissions using this approach shows a 32% reduction against our 2006 – 2007 baseline.

“We will investigate ways to address this anomaly in the coming year, and will continue to report publicly and transparently on our progress as we work towards our objectives.”

To read further commentary from James Curran on the Sustainable SEPA report please click here.


Notes to editors

SEPA’s annual sustainability report is audited by an independent third party and incorporates a verification statement to that effect. The report also includes a summary of SEPA’s activities in respect of the duties upon it under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.