Ministers promise to unveil ‘detailed net-zero roadmap’ for schools

Barran says current rebuilding schemes alone 'will not enable the education estate to meet targets'

Barran says current rebuilding schemes alone 'will not enable the education estate to meet targets'

16 Jan 2024, 0:01

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Government has vowed to publish its roadmap for making the education estate net-zero, after admitting its school rebuilding programme alone won’t be enough to hit targets.

Academies minister Baroness Barran made the commitment today in the wake of concerns raised by MPs over the progress the Department for Education has made on decarbonisation.

The environmental audit committee warned in November that the DfE is not moving quickly enough to deliver its goals of slashing emissions by three-quarters by 2037, before becoming net zero in 2050.

Writing in response, Barran said MPs were “right to acknowledge the scale of the challenge”.

Pointing to the school rebuilding programme, the Conservative stated: “As you note, our centrally delivered programmes are already energy efficient ‘net zero ready’ buildings”.

These are “more resilient to climate change, more energy efficient than required by building regulations, reducing carbon emissions and operating costs while improving the learning environment”.

“However, this alone will not enable the education estate, which is managed by over 3,000 responsible bodies, to meet net-zero targets by 2037.”

Barran appeared before the committee in October as MPs examined the DfE’s eco targets.

Following the hearing, its chair, Philip Dunne, told education secretary Gillian Keegan “it is not clear to us that the progress currently being made is at a pace which will allow the department to achieve” its targets.

He said the retrofits needed to reach net zero would “result in a significant charge on the public purse”, with forecasts suggesting it could cost £2 billion per annum to revamp 650 schools each year.

Current plans would “see only 20 per cent of the schools estate in England net zero compliant by 2050”.

Net-zero roadmap slated for autumn

Dunne urged the government to “establish and publish a realistic and fully costed plan” for the achievement of its sustainability goals “as a matter of urgency”.

And in today’s letter, Barran promised officials “will continue to develop our evidence base on the most effective approaches to decarbonisation and resilience”.

They will “inform the department’s future planning”, including how its “sustainability commitments best align with wider capital investment in the estate”, she argued.

“To this end, we agree in principle with the committee’s recommendation that the department should publish a detailed roadmap to achieving our sustainability targets – we aim to do so by autumn 2024.”

Despite this, committee members remain “concerned that the long-term funding to meet the DfE’s sustainability objectives is yet to be allocated”.

Dunne added: “I welcome the minister’s commitment to publish a roadmap later this year for the Department for Education to meet its sustainability targets.

“This will be an invaluable resource, allowing the department to set out in detail the challenge ahead and giving ministers sufficient visibility of the urgent case for significant additional funding for this large element of the public buildings estate.” 

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