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MPs warn Government progress is lacking as only 20% of the England’s schools estate will be net zero compliant by 2050

23 November 2023

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) today warns that the Department for Education is not “moving at pace” to deliver its sustainability commitments, undermining its own targets.

The Committee understands that the risks to schools of the effects of climate change – such as flooding, overheating and water scarcity – have not yet been fully grasped in Government. While schemes such as Climate Action Plans are welcome, EAC is concerned that the availability of sufficient funding could hamper efforts to truly address the effects of climate change on the education estate.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, EAC points out that the retrofits required to the estate in order to reach net zero will be a significant and costly undertaking which could amount to an annual cost of £2 billion. While there are wider refits necessary to ensure student safety, such as through replacing RAAC, EAC recommends that Government’s approach should provide the greatest value for money by addressing sustainability and climate risks alongside these refits.

EAC is calling on the Department for Education to publish urgently detailed plans for the mitigation of likely climate risks to the schools estate. It should also publish a fully-costed plan for the achievement of its sustainability strategy. 

Chair's comment

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:

“Education is the public sector’s largest emitter of carbon from buildings, amounting to 37% of all public sector emissions. Therefore, getting a grip and stemming these dangerous emissions is critical for our net zero future.

“But the Committee is concerned that given the scale of the challenge, the current pace of the work required to meet net zero, lacks urgency. It struck the Committee that while there is some understanding of the dangers climate change poses to schools and colleges in England, not enough is being done to adapt to the risks from flooding, overheating and water scarcity.

“Making the education estate fit for Net Zero Britain will be a costly and significant undertaking. There is no time to lose and the Department for Education must urgently publish detailed plans for mitigating risks caused by climate change, and set out how it will deliver its own sustainability strategy.”

Further information

Image: PA