Retrofit all education buildings to net-zero

30th June 2020

Today’s commitment made by the government to invest over £1bn into a ten-year school rebuilding programme has been welcomed by the students who have been calling for educational building retrofit to form a key part of the economic recovery from Covid-19. On 11 May 2020, Zamzam Ibrahim (NUS President) and Joe Brindle (founder of Teach the Future) wrote to Gavin Williamson MP to make the case for the retrofitting of education buildings.

52 NGOs have signed a letter delivered today to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, stating the case to retrofit the education estate to net-zero emissions in support of the ongoing educational reform campaign by Teach the Future. On the 17 June 2020, over 1,105 students signed a similar letter. NGOs include many environment organisations (including the EAUC, UK Student Climate Network, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB) and education organisations (including the National Education Union, the National Union of Students, the Universities and Colleges Union, and the Association of Colleges).

Specifically, students in Teach the Future are calling on the government to make substantial investments into the UK education estate by retrofitting it to a net-zero standard through fiscal stimulus and in line with the net-zero by 2050 commitment. They want the government to ensure that all new state-funded educational buildings are net-zero from 2022 and all existing state-funded
educational buildings are retrofitted to net-zero by 2030.

Joe Brindle, Teach the Future founder, 18 said: “We have been calling for an ambitious ten-year schools and colleges rebuilding plan, and welcome the news that the government has listened to us. We’re glad to see that the Department for Education will be making some schools and colleges more energy-efficient, however, we think that this investment should be significantly increased so that
all education buildings are retrofitted to net-zero by 2030. Doing this will create thousands of green jobs, ensure post-COVID investment is spread across the country, reduce the UK’s emissions and inspire students to live sustainably.
Additionally, we don’t just need our school and college buildings to be sustainable, but also need our education as a whole to reflect the severity of the climate crisis. Therefore, the Department for Education needs to make sustainability a key principle in education.”

The letters written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, can be found here:
● The letter from students can be seen here
● The letter from NGOs can be seen here.

The letter to Gavin Williamson can be seen here.

Zamzam Ibrahim, 26, President of the National Union of Students says: “Young people have suffered some of the greatest impacts from this lockdown, with our educational and career prospects put at risk. The government should do the right thing and make sure that post-COVID investment doesn’t leave us
behind but instead improves our education.”

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts says: “Wilder, green spaces that bring people closer to nature at our places of learning must become the norm. Young people around the world feel under pressure to save the planet and we need to give them reasons for optimism and hope. Our schools, universities and colleges should be at least net-zero in their carbon emissions and they should be helping nature too. We cannot tackle the climate crisis without tackling the nature crisis – the two are inseparable."

Ana Musat, Policy Manager at Aldersgate Group, a multi-stakeholder alliance composed of some of the largest businesses in the UK with a collective global turnover in excess of £550bn, said: “An economic recovery package with climate and environmental provisions at its heart is key to address important
social and economic issues. A sustainable, resilient recovery can help tackle the growing levels of inequality in health, incomes and productivity, and programmes like nationwide energy efficiency retrofits are a great example of shovel-ready projects that can have multiple benefits. Not only would these
reduce emissions from buildings and create jobs right across the country which are less susceptible to offshoring, they would also reduce energy bills and foster more comfortable living and working environments. Prioritising energy efficiency retrofits in educational estates will see these benefits materialising for a segment of the population severely impacted by the pandemic, especially when considering the way this crisis will shape their future employment prospects.”

Students in Teach the Future hope to meet with Gavin Williamson and Rishi Sunak so that they can further make the case to include investment in retrofitting all educational buildings to net-zero in post-COVID19 economic recovery plans.
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