What does net zero carbon mean for schools?

What does net zero carbon mean for schools?

In 2018 the government announced a new target to reach net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. It was a bold move that has since been echoed by a whole series of others, including the EU, South Korea and Japan. But what does it mean? And more specifically - what does it mean for schools?

The net zero carbon target means that by 2050, Britain will have ended its contribution to climate change. The ‘net’ means that this will be achieved by combining action in two directions. First, there are actions that reduce greenhouse gases (such as phasing out coal power); and second, there are actions that remove carbon from the atmosphere (such as planting trees).

Because it is a national target, it will involve everyone – government, businesses, cultural institutions, charities, individuals, and of course schools. We will all need to play our part in transforming Britain into a greener place.

And it will be a transformation: so much will need to change. Almost all fossil fuels will be eliminated, which means the coal and gas that run power stations will be swapped for clean power sources such as solar and wind. We will need alternatives to the gas that heats our homes. Petrol and diesel cars will be swapped for electric cars, high quality public transport, and more walking and cycling. The path to net zero will include how we travel, what we eat, and how we shop.

Schools will have a role in this transformation. They too will need to be zero carbon by 2050, moving towards renewable energy for their electricity, and low carbon sources of heat and transport.

2050 might still feel like a long way away, and there will be directives and specific targets for schools to come. But there is no need to wait for them - it is worth starting out on the journey sooner rather than later. For example, schools can invest more in the Eco-Schools programme, already the world’s largest environmental education project. It’s an opportunity to think through the environmental impact of the school itself, but also to share those values of caring for the earth and each other with students and their families.

Looking at your energy supplier can be a useful first step, and ensuring that you are on a green energy tariff. It might be possible to provide some of your own energy, and many schools have had solar panels installed. A solar array can be expensive, but it will pay for itself in savings, and costs are coming down all the time. It can also be a great opportunity to mobilise the local community in a fundraising effort.

One important thing is to make sure that any building work that you have done on the school will be ready for net zero, and won’t create problems that need to be fixed later. For example, all heating will need to be low carbon. A new building or extension that uses gas heating will need a new boiler or even a new central heating system in a few years’ time. These are costs that can be avoided by planning for low carbon now.

This is something we take very seriously at Green Modular. As our name suggests, environmental responsibility is at the heart of what we do, and our classrooms are designed with levels of insulation that exceed the national standard for a dwelling. We use electric temperature controls rather than gas. And all our timber is sourced from Forestry Stewardship Council certified companies that manage forests for the long term.

If you’re looking at a new building or external classroom, why not talk to us about net zero and how one of our buildings can play a part?

If you want to read more, here is Our top tips for an eco-friendly and sustainable school.