The government needs to strongly improve its use of green IT and select less harmful technology, according to a parliamentary committee.

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said it was time for Westminster to be more ambitious when it comes to green technology, in spite of some significant plans already devised.

"Unless the Government gets its house in order taxpayers could end up paying a heavy price to buy carbon credits from the private sector," said Tim Yeo, chairman of the committee in the new 'Greening government' report, referring to technology and other aspects of the government's attitude to the environment.

The report praised some of the changes that have taken place so far, including the development of departmental self assessment green scorecards, as well as action plans.

Referring to the "encouraging" Greening Government IT strategy of July 2008, which focuses on sustainability, it added that "the chief information officers and chief technology officers have responded well to the first set of targets".

It also supported government plans to create a 'Green ICT scorecard', which assesses how green issues have an impact on operations and customers, how IT contributes to strategy, and how efficient IT is reducing carbon footprint.

Nevertheless, it said the targets "must be increased".

"The [Greening Government ICT] strategy itself acknowledges there is a need to work with departments and industry to explore and invest in radical green ICT solutions for the ICT problem, but also consider issues relating to the life cycle impact and disposal of old IT hardware," it stated.

The report called for a number of steps to be taken.

Firstly, procurement cycles needed to be extended to a minimum of four years, it said. When equipment is eventually replaced, buying choices should be based on the carbon emissions of the "production, manufacturing and full lifecycle" of the technology, rather than simply electricity required.

Equipment purchased should be of high standards, it said, without excessive packaging.

The government must also stop staff members using more than one PC, it said.

The report called for proper server optimisation, the removal of "over-duplicated" data, the sharing of datacentres, and sensible temperature control. To address all of these issues, the government should adhere to the European Datacentre Code of Conduct, it said.

Electricity used by government It should be from renewable sources, a step it said was particularly important with the "proliferation of ICT".

A video conferencing strategy across government was also needed. It noted that a shared framework would allow more effective procurement.

IT and transport

The report also called for some large steps in the use of IT to reduce the harmful effects of public and private transport on the environment. It acknowledged much work had been done, but said there was room for many more actions.

Remote working and teleconferencing could help with avoiding unnecessary travel, it said. IT systems could advise on the best methods and routes of travel, update on transport systems, and compare the impact of different journeys.

There needed to be more use of IT systems to change driver and behaviour, such as satellite navigation devices that track traffic, and pay as you car insurance. The report highlighted Fiat cars' Eco:drive system, which "teaches you how to drive more efficiently".

It called for more use of speed cameras, congestion charging and real time traffic monitoring systems for traffic lights.

Vehicles could be fitted with intelligent speed adaptation systems, as well as tyre pressure and energy efficiency monitoring systems, it noted. It even called for the use of driverless vehicles in the future.