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National framework announced for Church of England schools’ net-zero planning

26 October 2023

Church of England

THE National Society, the Church of England’s education office, is to create a national framework to help C of E schools to reduce their carbon emissions, towards the General Synod’s target of net zero by 2030 (News, 14 February 2020).

The framework, announced on Thursday, is to be co-ordinated by DBE Services, a company owned by six northern dioceses. DBE will work with boards of education and multi-academy trusts to identify cost-effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of school buildings, the announcement says. It will also explore “cheaper and more reliable” energy-saving and energy-generating technologies to save schools money on bills.

Last year, the Synod approved a Routemap to Net Zero for the whole Church (News, 15 July 2022). The motion included a clause requesting that “high energy users within the Church (every cathedral, TEI, school, office and the top 20% of energy-consuming churches) . . . similarly draw up a programme of action, with a clear time frame, based on the Routemap”.

The National Society’s chief executive, the Revd Nigel Genders, explained: “Church schools produce almost half of the Church’s carbon emissions, and are therefore a fundamental part of the Church’s ambition to reach net zero carbon across the whole estate. The National Framework for Schools and Academies will help schools meet the challenge of securing the funds needed to provide sustainable and flourishing Church of England schools for the future.”

During the Synod’s debate on the Routemap, some members pointed out that schools were not under the control of dioceses, and thus could be only encouraged, not instructed, to cut their emissions.

The chief executive of DBE Services, Dr Sam Johnson, who is also a licensed lay minister in Blackburn diocese, said: “We’re hoping that all schools and academies will engage with the sustainability and net zero carbon agenda, and that a co-ordinated approach will help secure funding for schools across the country as they work to lower their emissions.”

The C of E website already includes a timeline of “milestones” towards reducing emissions for church schools.

By the end of this year, it says, dioceses are required to have identified school sites that have boilers approaching the end of their lives and offer schools funding for a more sustainable solution, and seek public funding to commission energy audits. Diocesan boards of education (DBEs) are to deliver smart-meter installations on all school sites; and, where applicable, schools and DBEs are encouraged to develop or update an eco-friendly travel-to-school plan, to include the installation of EV charging points.

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