How Carbon Offsetting can help academies and schools achieve their NET ZERO targets

When trying to understand Carbon Offsetting and whether it is something that can benefit a single school or Academy Trust, then it is worth being clear about what is meant by carbon offsetting.

Offsetting is a climate action that enables individuals and organisations to compensate for the emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases they cannot avoid, by supporting the reduction of emissions somewhere else. Offsets are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One tonne of carbon offset represents the reduction of one tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.

Therefore in the context of a typical School, Academy or Trust then the biggest area of carbon dioxide emissions that are most likely unavoidable, will be those generated through consumption of Gas for heating and hot water and perhaps some elements of electric consumption.

The good news is that if your school or Trust is not yet sourcing green or renewable electricity then this is now easy to do and a quick and easy win. The UK’s growing stable of windfarms helped contribute to renewable electricity outpacing fossil fuel generation for the first time in 2020 ( and so with the right procurement partner it is now possible to source 100% renewable electricity for the same price as brown electric, in most parts of the country.

So once a School’s electric has been switched to become renewably sourced, then this just leaves the emissions from Gas or perhaps oil to be considered for offsetting. Almost all the UK Gas supply is derived from fossil fuel sources and therefore Carbon generating (there is some availability of Bio-gas but this is very limited) and so this is where your Carbon offsetting needs to come in.

From a practical and realistic perspective however, Gas is difficult to replace in the short term because although there are quite a few mature technical solutions for replacing Gas boilers and heating systems, the cost impact is normally prohibitively high. Currently Gas prices are typically 5 x cheaper than electric, making the replacement technologies simply not economically viable yet. I can’t imagine many school or trust finance managers winning the argument to increase school heating bills fivefold.

So, the reality is that whilst we wait for market forces and innovations to come to the rescue, Gas boilers are here to stay for a while longer. It is however reasonable to expect that the price differential between renewable electric costs and gas will narrow significantly over the coming years and with the help of national governments supporting and stimulating green innovations, I think we can look forward to heating our schools in the not-too-distant future, with carbon neutral and sustainable technologies. In the meantime, the best we can do is to offset the carbon footprint that we do generate and the best scheme in my opinion for doing this is run by the UN, the United Nations Carbon Offset Platform.

The UN regulated scheme has been a real success reaching 2 million Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) purchased and cancelled since its launch in September 2015. CERs are emission reductions units emanating from projects located in developing countries under UN Climate Change’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). These projects not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also support sustainable development in the project countries.

The platform, developed by UN Climate Change, enables anybody interested to take climate action by supporting these projects, thereby also contributing to sustainable development in developing countries. Certified Emission Reductions are issued following a rigorous registration, validation, and certification process based on rules established at intergovernmental level within the climate change process convened by UN Climate Change, providing a high level of credibility. One CER represents one tonne of greenhouse gas emission that has been reduced, avoided or captured. This means that if you have a fifty-tonne climate footprint, it can be compensated by cancelling 50 CERs.

So for a School, Academy or Trust that uses UN CER credits, they can really make a difference to climate change by:

  • Compensating for their unavoidable carbon emissions
  • Rewarding low carbon projects located in developing countries and encouraging the development of new ones;
  • Help bring sustainable development benefits to communities, such as improved air and water quality, improved income, improved health, reduced energy consumption and much more;
  • Contributing to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • Signalling their decarbonisation intent, to their students, staff and local communities
  • Showing leadership to make a real difference for the future!

enFrame are doing our bit to help, by offering all schools carbon neutral energy supply renewals at no premium or additional cost:

  • Electric – green/renewable electricity supply contracts at the same price as brown supply contracts
  • Gas – UN CER Offset credits purchased on behalf of Schools

We are also using our Social Investment Fund to support “Just One Tree” in their mission to remove CO2 from the atmosphere through reforestation and if you want to do more to carbon offset the natural way then the Woodland Trust provides free trees for all schools that apply

For more information then please contact us.