October 2021 edition: Climate Change – Doing Nothing is No Longer an Option

Climate Change – Doing Nothing is No Longer an Option

On the eve of COP26 and in the wake of the COVID crisis, the imperative to develop and implement plans for tackling climate change has never been stronger.

In our previous article in Trust, Jonathan Coyles and I argued that School Trusts are in a powerful position to implement many of the decarbonisation opportunities available. Since then, energy price inflation has far exceeded expectations, placing an even greater urgency on taking action to reduce energy costs and maintain funding to front line services.

Put simply, doing nothing is no longer an option. Whilst we cannot ignore the disruptive impact of COVID, we must now turn our attention to the future.

Levelling up

Alongside climate change, the "Levelling up” agenda has become a key focus for the country as we emerge from the pandemic. Rather than viewing these as separate, even competing, programmes, the two are closely linked. Used correctly, the benefits of energy efficiency projects can improve budgets, engage students and drive behavioural change in the wider community.

The moral imperative

The moral case for tackling climate change is clear. Rising sea levels, rainfall and flooding are contributing to global poverty and a widening of the wealth gap. Even closer to home, we know that taking action now is far more cost-effective than delaying further. The longer we put off the decarbonisation of our organisations the greater the financial burden on future generations.

The leadership imperative

Schools and Trusts are civic structures and have a duty to their pupils and local communities to provide leadership and direction when tackling difficult issues. The collective resources of a School Trust combined with their commercial agility and governance structure makes climate change an area where the advantages of the Trust model can be practically demonstrated.

Implementing innovative and forward-thinking energy strategies also benefits Trusts by showing their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials - an increasingly important metric.

The financial imperative

The financial driver for action has been brought into sharp focus this year as record energy price inflation has hit schools with unexpected hikes in their utilities costs that, in turn, reduce the resources available for teaching.

Reducing overall energy demand and implementing strategies to protect your organisation from future rises in the wholesale energy market must now be high on the agenda for every Trust leadership team. What is more, the decarbonisation process is being driven largely by incentive at present. Will this last? We must take advantage of the financial support while it is here.

The practical imperative

Finally, there are very good practical reasons for commencing or accelerating your decarbonisation journey. Updating heating and lighting systems in particular, has benefits beyond CO2 reduction, with vastly reduced maintenance requirements and enhanced monitoring and reporting capabilities.

Looking to the future, it is vital to consider available capacity to accommodate the electrification of our estates and for electric vehicle charging. These sorts of infrastructure upgrades cannot be completed overnight and those organisations looking at these issues now, have the best chance of implementing the necessary changes in good time.

The collective resources of a school Trust combined with their commercial agility and governance structure makes climate change an area where the advantages of the Trust model can be practically demonstrated.

Robert Gould

Lightbulb moment

Innovation and market forces are driving down the costs of net zero, increasing the options for financing capital projects. The price of a solar photovoltaic module has almost halved since 2010. In the last two decades the cost of LED lights has decreased by over 20 times with brightness improved 40 times over [1].

Taking all of these drivers into account, the case for adopting these technologies is now very strong. For most schools there are technologies that can be implemented that will provide a surplus income with little or no capital outlay required.

Let’s Go Zero

The journey to net zero will not happen overnight but huge steps forward are already possible with today’s technology and funding solutions. Sometimes you just need to take the first step.

Ashden’s Let’s Go Zero campaign is uniting schools up and down the country in making public their ambition to decarbonise. When you sign up to this free programme you will get support on setting your carbon reduction targets and developing roadmaps for delivery. You can sign up for free at www.letsgozero.org

Currently schools and academies contribute 25% of carbon emissions from the public sector but the funding to support schools on their decarbonisation journeys does not match in either scale or delivery structure. With more and more schools and Trusts demonstrating their desire to change, we can help convince the government to review how it supports the trust sector and come together to share ideas on how to use resources most effectively.

There should be no excuses. Doing nothing is no longer an option.


[1] https://www.nesta.org.uk/feature/stories-change/lightbulb-moments-rapid-shift-leds-and-ultra-efficient-lighting/

Barker is a CST Platinum Partner.
The Barker Energy 360 solution helps organisations plan, fund and implement transformational energy efficiency strategies. Our team of specialists help develop and implement programmes that lower costs, reduce impact on the environment and create positive stakeholder engagement. We help you access vital funding to make a positive impact on both your finances and carbon reduction targets.