Retrofit all education buildings to net-zero, say over 1,000 students and 52 leading organisations

Jarvis Smith - My Green Pod

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Published: 1 July 2020

This Article was Written by: Jarvis Smith - My Green Pod

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Students have welcomed the government’s plans to invest over £1bn into a 10-year school rebuilding programme – but have urged the government to go further and commit to retrofitting all state-funded educational buildings to net-zero emissions by 2030.



The government’s plans come on the heels of a long youth-led campaign, involving strikes throughout 2019 and letters to over 200 MPs. The students are also calling for educational building retrofits to form a key part of the economic recovery from Covid-19.

Creating green jobs

On 11 May 2020, Zamzam Ibrahim (NUS President) and Joe Brindle (founder of Teach the Future) wrote to Gavin Williamson MP to make the case for the retrofitting of education buildings. 

‘We have been calling for an ambitious 10-year schools and colleges rebuilding plan, and welcome the news that the government has listened to us. We’re glad to see that the Department for Education will be making some schools and colleges more energy-efficient, however, we think that this investment should be significantly increased so that all education buildings are retrofitted to net-zero by 2030.

‘Doing this will create thousands of green jobs, ensure post-Covid investment is spread across the country, reduce the UK’s emissions and inspire students to live sustainably.

‘Additionally, we don’t just need our school and college buildings to be sustainable, but also need our education as a whole to reflect the severity of the climate crisis. Therefore, the Department for Education needs to make sustainability a key principle in education.’

JOE BRINDLE
Teach the Future founder, 18

Reasons for hope

52 NGOs have signed a letter delivered to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, stating the case to retrofit the education estate to net-zero emissions in support of the ongoing educational reform campaign by Teach the Future. On the 17 June 2020, over 1,105 students signed a similar letter.

‘Wilder, green spaces that bring people closer to nature at our places of learning must become the norm. Young people around the world feel under pressure to save the planet and we need to give them reasons for optimism and hope.

‘Our schools, universities and colleges should be at least net-zero in their carbon emissions and they should be helping nature too. We cannot tackle the climate crisis without tackling the nature crisis – the two are inseparable.’

CRAIG BENNETT
Chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts

NGOs include many environment organisations (including the UK Student Climate Network, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB) and education organisations (including the National Education Union, the National Union of Students, the Universities and Colleges Union and the Association of Colleges).

‘Do the right thing’

Specifically, students in Teach the Future are calling on the government to make substantial investments into the UK education estate by retrofitting it to a net-zero standard through fiscal stimulus and in line with the net-zero by 2050 commitment.

They want the government to ensure that all new state-funded educational buildings are net-zero from 2022 and all existing state-funded educational buildings are retrofitted to net-zero by 2030.

‘Young people have suffered some of the greatest impacts from this lockdown, with our educational and career prospects put at risk. The government should do the right thing and make sure that post-Covid investment doesn’t leave us behind but instead improves our education.’

ZAMZAM IBRAHIM
President of the National Union of Students

Students in Teach the Future hope to meet with Gavin Williamson Rishi Sunak so that they can further make the case to include investment in retrofitting all educational buildings to net-zero in post-Covid economic recovery plans.

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