FCO: Greening a global network

The Global Carbon Calculator allows the FCO trials
an electric tricycle to compare emissions at various

Policy: The UK is committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. As part of this goal, each Government department has an operational ‘carbon budget’, setting a limit on the amount of CO2 which it is allowed to emit in any five year period.

Plan: ‘Greening the FCO’ programme puts environmental considerations at the heart of its activities and involves five key steps: measuring the environmental impact, setting targets, showing leadership, engaging staff and sharing best practice.

Step 1: A global carbon calculator was developed by FCO Services which enabled the FCO to measure emissions and compare posts to identify any anomalies. The results led to carbon reduction plans, including energy-efficient lighting and solar hot water panels being installed at a number of posts.

Step 2: A network of eight Regional Greening Managers set out the following achievable targets for embassies embarking on a sustainability programme:

office emissions by 15-20% (through turning off equipment when not in use, adjusting a/c or heating and switching to energy-efficient lighting and heating);
air travel by 10-25% (through using video conferencing instead);
road travel by 5-10% (through switching to hybrid vehicles or using public transport);
water usage by 10-30% (through installing water-efficiency fittings)
waste by 15-20% (through recycling)
Step 3: Each post appointed a Green Team to ensure action was taken.

Step 4: The team brought together staff from across the embassy and engaged them to come up with creative solutions.

Step 5: Best practice was shared by regional green managers and the FCO Green Awards was an added incentive to engage posts.

HQ goal: The FCO HQ aims to reduce its emissions by 30% through a number of simple actions, including: powering down desktops at night, installing voltage regulation, running boilers from biofuel and reducing office heating to 19°C.

Outcomes: The biggest impact came from cutting back on flights, either by video conferencing or flying economy. In one year, the Brazil network of posts reduced their emissions by 57% mainly by cutting back their flight emissions by 63%.

Subtle adjustments in temperature regulation also made a difference: Abuja cut its carbon footprint by 22% largely by setting a threshold of 24C for the air conditioning.

Savings: If the FCO HQ achieves its 30% cut in emissions, it will save the organisation about £500,000 a year on energy bills. The British Embassy in Ankara saved £78,000 in 2009 by cutting air travel, while Washington reduced its electricity and gas consumption by 12% in three months by turning off equipment at night, fitting timers and motion sensors, all of which saved £18,000.

The FCO also incorporates sustainability into the design of new builds. The new mission in Warsaw has a double skin façade to enhance insulation while Doha uses shading to reduce the building’s temperature.