The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned that the Department for Education is at risk of not delivering on its own sustainability commitments and targets.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, EAC pointed 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 £2bn. While there are wider refits necessary to ensure student safety, such as through replacing RAAC, EAC recommends that the 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.
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.