COP26 - Let’s Go Zero coalition, representing 700 UK schools, meets with Secretary of State for Education to demand support for school climate action

On Saturday, at COP26 the Let’s Go Zero coalition handed a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, calling for the policies and funding to make all UK schools zero carbon by 2030.

The coalition is supported by more than 700 schools seeking to reach this goal, representing more than 300,000 pupils and 40,000 members of staff. The coalition’s members include the National Education Union, Global Action Plan, IKEA, WWF, the Church of England, and is coordinated by climate solutions charity Ashden.

The letter was signed by:
Harriet Lamb, CEO, Ashden.
Peter Jelkeby, Country Retail Manager UK & Ireland and Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA.
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union.
Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer, Church of England Education Office.
Emma Knights OBE, Chief Executive, National Governance Association.
Tanya Steele, CEO, WWF UK.
Sonja Graham, CEO, Global Action Plan.

The letter details how backing zero carbon schools can play a major role in reaching the government’s ambitious target to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, and in the levelling up agenda. Decarbonising schools and colleges – by investing in modern buildings and technology, on-site energy generation, green spaces, sustainable food and other measures – will not only cut school energy consumption, but also drive job creation in the near-term.

A nationwide schools and colleges retrofit programme would create thousands of new, skilled jobs, and bring economic benefits in local communities. It would contribute to building the companies, supply-chains, and skills base needed for decarbonising homes and other buildings right across the country.

Retrofitting the UK’s 32,000 schools is also an effective way to ensure that green economic activity is spread equally, from rural villages to inner cities. Finally, learning in a sustainable environment would inspire students. The campaign also includes a call to help schools put climate action at the heart of their teaching.

The campaign’s full demands are:

• The government commits to all UK schools being carbon zero by 2030, and announces long term and consistent policies and funding to enable this.

• Government ensures there is investment in training teachers in education for sustainable development across the curriculum, and in equipping colleges and schools to give all learners a connection to nature

• The government commits to investing in adapting and retrofitting the school estate

• The Department for Education commits to improving their building specifications, so that all new school buildings from 2022 onwards will be net zero carbon.

• By 2025, every school is mandated to have a funded Climate Action Plan that provides step by step guidance cutting through the current complicated procedures that will result in zero carbon status.

• Every school should have a trained staff member who acts as a Sustainability Lead.

• Sustainability to be embedded as a statutory feature of careers guidance in UK schools by 2025.

At COP26, the Department for Education launched a pivotal consultation into school sustainability. Let’s Go Zero will continue to recruit new schools and feed the views of students and teachers into this consultation process.

Harriet Lamb, CEO of Ashden which coordinates Let's Go Zero, said: “There is massive untapped potential to accelerate decarbonisation in education, and we also hope to respond to those young people calling for change, and to inspire and educate the whole next generation to make sustainable, healthy choices in their lifestyle. Young people are a leading force in shaping public discourse around climate change; this letter presents their demands and sets out a credible path forward for the Secretary of State to take.

Louise White, Principal Teacher at Let's Go Zero school Corpus Christi Primary school in Knightswood, Glasgow said: "We have a responsibility as educators to teach sustainability education. It is important to give real world skills that can be used by our learners to make a difference to improve our planet. As stewards of the earth we need to protect our planet for our and successive generations.”

Photo: Harriet Lamb, Ashden CEO, Alex Green, Programme Manager of Let's Go Zero hand and Peter Jelkeby, UK and Ireland CEO of IKEA hand Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi MP a letter demanding support for schools to take speedy and dramatic climate action. Credit: Ashden

Photo: Students at Corpus Christi Primary school in Glasgow with the climate change plan they prepared for COP. Like thousands of schools, they have done all the easy eco-wins, but need government support to make the big decarbonisation changes to become zero carbon. Credit: Corpus Christi Primary School

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