Let's Go Zero: Zero carbon schools by 2030

Written by: Headteacher Update | Published:

Sixty per cent of energy used by schools is wasted out-of-hours and schools in England alone spend £600 million per year on energy. The Let’s Go Zero campaign is helping schools to pledge to go zero carbon within a decade

Schools across the UK have thrown themselves behind a green schools’ campaign and are declaring their aim to become zero carbon by 2030.

More than 100 trailblazer schools have signed up to the Let’s Go Zero campaign within a month of its launch.

Let’s Go Zero, spearheaded by climate solutions charity Ashden, was launched in November at the Youth Climate Summit. The campaign intends to showcase low-carbon solutions from schools at next year’s United Nations Climate Conference, COP26 in Glasgow, which takes place in November.

Zero carbon means that no carbon emissions are being produced from the school. Net-zero carbon means that while some emissions are still generated, these are being offset elsewhere. Although off-setting will be a key part to decarbonising UK schools, at this stage the campaign is focusing on supporting schools with carbon reduction.

Let’s Go Zero is being driven by the work of schools with support from a coalition of sustainability partners including Global Action Plan (organisers of the Youth Climate Summit), the WWF, the Fairtrade Foundation (Fairtrade Schools), EcoSchools, Sustrans (School Streets), and the Soil Association (Food for Life).

Signatory schools are working to cut carbon in seven key areas – energy, food, procurement, waste, water, travel and school grounds, as well as addressing the place of climate in the curriculum.

Let’s Go Zero aims to help schools learn from their peers, share best practice and connect with sources of support.

Carbon reduction: South Molton Community School in Devon is taking on the Let's Go Zero campaign. Pupils here are cooking food grown at school and are pictured in the school garden (images: Ashden/Let's Go Zero)

Alex Green, the schools manager at Let’s Go Zero, said: “We must get behind the incredible commitment by young people who are demanding action on climate. There are 32,000 schools in the UK and 10 million people walk through school gates every day. Working together we can create an amazing opportunity to take bold action to go green in schools and support our young climate ambassadors.

“Schools able to make radical energy efficiency improvements will make significant carbon savings: 60 per cent of energy used by schools is wasted out-of-hours and schools in England alone spend £600 million per year on energy – the second largest budget item after staff salaries.

“Knock-on benefits to parents, communities and businesses, as well as students are significant. Local purchasing of consumables, paper, furniture or bulk purchasing for instance, can be part of a school’s strategy, so as to reduce deliveries and keep business local.”

However, Ashden says that getting to zero carbon will need to be a government-supported effort too. In June, the UK government announced £1bn in funding for 50 major school building projects in England, but with 24,000 schools that is just 0.2 per cent of the total. If all education buildings in England are to be net zero by 2030, it is predicted that it will cost at least £23.4bn.

Mr Green added: “We cannot rely just on the good will of school management – they will need government support and funding mechanisms to make the necessary changes. We need to move at pace and scale to reduce severe climate impacts which will affect these children’s lives.

“Ashden has seven years’ experience supporting more than 500 schools to reduce their carbon footprint through its LESS CO2 mentoring programme.”

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