Greening its IT systems has saved the government £7 million in the last year.

Speaking at the Greening Government ICT conference in London today, Angela Smith, Cabinet Office minister, was set to outline the changes had led to the savings.

Whitehall has extended the life of PCs, made double-sided printing the default option, made sure computers are turned off at night, increased the reuse of IT equipment and increased server efficiency.

These helped cut the carbon footprint of central government computers by 12,000 tonnes, Smith said, the same as taking 5,000 cars off the road.

“Information technology is one of the hidden causes of climate change – worldwide, computers are responsible for the same amount of carbon emissions as the airline industry, but few people are taking action to improve the situation,” she was due to say.

ICT is responsible for up to 20 per cent of carbon emissions generated by government offices and the government is leading the way in the UK on reducing the overall carbon footprint from IT operations.

“A year ago the British government became the first in the world to set tough targets to tackle the huge environmental and financial costs of computer use and I’m delighted to see the real progress that has been made,” Smith was set to tell the conference.

Countries “from around the world” are looking to Britain for advice on how to cut emissions, she said, adding that she hoped companies and individuals would follow suit.

Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, described the Green ICT Scorecard launched by the Government last year as “the one very rare exception” to the general lack of targets and measures in this area.

Steps taken by the government include:

- The Department for International Development donating old equipment to charities in developing countries

- The Crown Prosecution Service saving £2.35million by replacing 9,500 computers and 2,500 printers every five years rather than every three

- The Home Office saving £2.4million a year by removing unused IT equipment and improving efficiency

- The Department for Work and Pensions will save 200 million sheets of paper a year through cutting down the number of printers in the department and changing the default setting to double-sided printing

110 public bodies have produced Green ICT action plans establishing measures for improving the energy consumption and carbon cost of their IT. The action plans not only clarify what steps are completed but also set out actions with delivery dates for the remaining steps during the next 18 months.