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All new schools and colleges in Wales to be net zero carbon

Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and the Welsh language

Buildings will be required to be Net Zero Carbon in operation, which means producing zero or negative carbon emissions as part of their operational energy.

The first  generation of schools and colleges under the new rules will also be required to demonstrate a 20% reduction on the amount of embodied carbon, which is the carbon emitted through construction materials and the construction process, with further reductions required in future, in line with the Welsh Government’s broader net zero carbon plans.

New proposed buildings will also include ambitious plans for biodiversity, active travel and electric vehicle charging facilities.

The announcement will help the Welsh Government achieve its commitment to becoming a net zero carbon nation by 2050.

Jeremy Miles visited the site of the new Llancarfan Primary School in the Vale of Glamorgan. Due for completion in early 2022, Llancarfan Primary will be the first Net Zero Carbon school in Wales, with its own on-site power generation and battery storage.

Jeremy Miles said:

“We should all be asking ourselves what we can do to help reverse the damage caused by climate change. With Llancarfan, we are already delivering the first Net Zero Carbon school. Making sure our future buildings contribute positively is a significant step we can take.

“At the heart of our new curriculum is our aim to support learners to become ethical, informed citizens, who are committed to the sustainability of the planet. It’s essential we set an example to young people if we are to realise this ambition.”

Cllr Lis Burnett, Deputy Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, said:

“We are incredibly proud to be opening Wales’ first net zero school here in the Vale.

“Climate change is a huge challenge globally, and one that we all must take action to address. Having declared a climate emergency in 2019, we have since put in place Project Zero, our plan for the Council to become carbon neutral by 2030. This building represents a significant step towards achieving our vision.

“It has been designed not only to provide a building that reduces our carbon output but one that will provide a first class learning environment in which future generations can learn how to reduce theirs.”

Godfrey Ryan, CEO of school transport specialist Kura said:

“The move to create cleaner, greener schools for pupils in Wales is an extremely welcome announcement, however the announcement looks to be worryingly limited in its implementation. Unicef research shows that while children spend less than half of their waking hours at school, they breathe in almost two-thirds of their daily toxic air pollutants during school hours, underlining the critical importance of getting this area right first time.

“While addressing emissions from school buildings is a promising start, the daily school run, responsible for a quarter of cars on the road during rush-hour, is a major contributor to schools’ collective carbon footprint that must also be addressed, from both an environmental and safety perspective.

Almost half of parents (48%) are concerned about the amount of toxic fumes generated by cars around their children’s school – a concern shared by 22.8% of school leaders across the country, indicating that more must be done to make shared school transport a viable option for parents if we are to see real, lasting changes to schools’ carbon footprint.” 

The new Net Zero Carbon requirement will become part of the of Welsh Government’s flagship 21st Century Schools and Colleges programme. From January 1 2022, the programme will be known as Sustainable Communities for Learning.

Working in partnership with local authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association, colleges, Colleges Wales and Diocesan directors, it has supported the delivery of 180 new or improved school and college projects so far.  

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