How can schools lead the charge on climate action? - Matt Caville

Comment by Matt Caville – Senior Advisor for the Decarbonisation of Complex Sites at Energy Systems Catapult.

As pressure grows to develop clear, comprehensive plans on climate action, schools must act now. The Catapult has developed a government-backed roadmap to help.

The Department for Education (DfE) has set a bold expectation: by 2025, every educational institution should have a comprehensive climate action plan. This directive means schools and colleges need to develop detailed strategies for sustainability, covering areas like adaptation, resilience, biodiversity, climate education, and, importantly, decarbonisation.

Why decarbonisation matters in schools

The DfE’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy targets a significant 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2037 across all education settings. Developing a climate action plan is the first crucial step for schools to contribute to this goal. Beyond environmental benefits, such plans can also help lower energy bills, engage students with climate issues, and nurture green skills, potentially inspiring careers in the green sector. Schools and colleges are also pivotal community influencers. They play a critical role in our communities, bringing along parents, businesses and more, and their efforts in decarbonisation can have a positive ripple effect.

But taking decisive climate action means being empowered and equipped to do so. While schools are uniquely positioned to be pioneers, many struggle with where to start. Decarbonisation approaches and plans can be a complex undertaking, even for trained, technical professionals. Those tasked with sustainability in schools are often teachers or school governors whose primary focus is learning and the comfort of pupils. They are overwhelmingly time poor (we found that most sustainability leaders in educational settings have about one hour per week to dedicate to these efforts), and don’t have a technical background.

To aid schools in this effort, the Catapult has worked with government and the education sector to create a new schools-specific guide to decarbonisation.

How the guide can help

Commissioned by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero – with input from experts in sustainable schools, Ashden, and Local Partnerships – the Catapult’s guide makes it easier for schools to develop the decarbonisation pillar of their climate action plan.

It offers step-by-step, non-technical advice for teachers, estate teams and governors, and outlines the four key steps they need to develop a robust climate action plan:

  1. Taking the first steps: Understand your school’s energy performance, identify valuable information to expand your energy use understanding, and explore funding opportunities to support your next steps.
  2. The building audit process: Learn what a building audit involves, what it can provide, and how to ensure you get the best audit for your school’s needs by working with the right contractor.
  3. Your decarbonisation plan: Get insights on how to develop the best decarbonisation plan tailored to your school.
  4. Funding: Discover various funding options to plan and implement your school’s decarbonisation.

The guide signposts to additional resources, grant funding, and hands-on support that is available for schools. None more so than the likes of Ashden’s Let’s Go Zero initiative, where schools can sign up to their initiative, and access expert advice and support to help drive their climate action plans.

Climate action in schools is a huge opportunity. When given the tools to integrate decarbonisation into sustainability plans, schools can lead by example, make a dent in public sector emissions, educate the next generation on climate issues, and foster a sense of community responsibility. It’s a great narrative for our now, and our future. We hope this new guide supports their success story.

Download the guide

Climate Action Plan: Decarbonisation

Public Sector Decarbonisation Guidance

Accelerating carbon emissions reduction across public sector buildings, sites and estates… with simplicity, speed & scale.

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