DfE Response to the Accelerating Towards Net-Zero Report

29th March 2023

Yesterday, the Further and Higher Education sectors were encouraged to receive a positive response from the Department for Education, regarding the Accelerating Towards Net-Zero report, which was released in 2022 as part of the Jubilee Challenge.

The response was published in time for an event hosted by the Royal Anniversary Trust at Lancaster House, to celebrate the historic winners of the Queens Anniversary Prize and to recognise the work of HM Queen Elizabeth in supporting the education sector. The tertiary education sector's contributions to sustainability were highlighted, as was the urgency of accelerating further action. The event welcomed delegates and speakers including EAUC CEO Charlotte Bonner, Further Education Commissioner Shelagh Legrave, AoC CEO David Hughes, and Founder of Speakers for Schools Robert Peston. 

On behalf of the Department for Education, Baroness Barran's letter to the sector states the DfE's full support for the priorities in this report for the sector, to decarbonise the built environment, travel and transport and to create a sustainable supply chain. The letter articulates four main points:

1 - "I recognise how increasingly important the green credentials of education settings are to student choice. Therefore, I encourage FE and HE to start reporting emissions following the Standardised Carbon Emission Framework so there is transparency across the sector. I have asked my officials to work with HESA (the designated data collector for FE and HE) and UKRI to explore the feasibility of embedding the principles from the standardised emission framework into existing data collection processes, and UKRI’s work on the climate impact of research, respectively."

EAUC Involvement: We are working with DfE, AUDE & HESA on developing the data collection tool for the Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework. We are working with UKRI to further develop the impact of research. 

2 - "I would like to explore, starting with Vice Chancellors in the Higher Education Sector, how the sector would like to be viewed both domestically and internationally on its contribution to solving the climate crisis via its teaching, research and community outreach; and to understand how the sector contribution can be maximised whilst also achieving net zero."

EAUC Involvement: We are working with DfE on this event and we will share further details as soon as they are available.

3 - "Financing decarbonisation is a challenge that is recognised globally. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to make sure that education settings get a fair proportion of the public sector decarbonisation scheme. This will build on the soft cap introduced in Phase 3B to ensure that at least 30% of funding went to education settings and of which over £120m was offered to education settings. Moreover, my officials are working with UKIB to run a pilot with four universities on how green bonds might work at various scales. This will plug into wider work my officials are undertaking on funding strategies for decarbonisation, energy efficiency and energy generation in the public sector."

EAUC Involvement: We are working with DfE and UKIB to identify universities for the pilot. We continue to support the public sector decarbonisation scheme and we were instrumental in securing the ring fenced funding for the education sector. 

4 - "I can announce that we are developing plans to put in place a digital hub to accelerate knowledge and action on implementing climate action plans and net zero strategies. This will work hand in hand with the National Education Nature Park, being delivered by a consortium led by the Natural History Museum. The Nature Park will initially demonstrate the biodiversity of the education estate, but eventually will show the emissions and risk to the education system at a setting level. By highlighting the status of the education system to the impacts of climate change and in parallel providing a support hub to plan and implement the change will allow us to plan strategic interventions at regional level and accelerate change."

EAUC Involvement: We continue to support the DfE on the Nature Park and tertiary sector involvement in this.

For the full response, please see the attached PDF of Baroness Barran's letter.


Photo taken from The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes on Twitter.
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