Part 1 – The Practical Steps Schools & Academy Trusts can take to reduce Carbon emissions and move towards a NetZero future – Behaviour Change

Over the coming weeks, we will be trying to answer this question by examining a different aspect of NetZero/de-carbonisation each week and hopefully, we will provide some contextualised practical information and guidance for Schools and Trusts. In this first blog, we are therefore starting with the easiest step and yet paradoxically often the most difficult step, in reality, Behaviour Change.

The mere mention of the word “change” often causes people to feel uneasy and instinctively resist change, perhaps because of the perceived effort, risk, or fear associated with it. So it’s probably worth establishing the scale of the challenge and why a School or Academy Trust should be contemplating such change especially at the moment when there are so many other competing pressures and priorities.

For me, the most obvious reason for considering change is the clear evidence for the environmental and climate crisis we are already starting to experience. The scientific consensus on the need for rapid and fundamental action is crystal clear, as explained in the IPCC’s Global Warming of 1.5oC report, highlighting the considerable risks associated with a 20C rise in global average temperatures, compared to a 1.50C rise, and 2019 reports Ocean and Cryosphere and Climate Change and Land. Additionally, the recent Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report states that around 25% of the world’s species are now at threat of extinction due to habitat loss and climate change.

The pace and scale of these environmental changes and disasters unfolding are clearly not lost on our young people who are almost universally concerned about Climate Change and perhaps this provides both the most compelling reason and a moral imperative for any School or Trust to embrace a programme of change.

“Climate change was the most commonly cited among most important issues facing the world, in a survey of more than 10,000 young people” – Amnesty International

“Climate Anxiety – Children losing sleep over Climate Change and the environment” -BBC Survey

I think the case therefore for change is pretty hard to argue against, however deciding when to start and at what pace to make the required changes is less straightforward, until you do the research and listen to what the experts are saying. Paul Gilding a Fellow at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership with 45 years of history in sustainability and thought leadership, including 30 years on climate change is quite unequivocal that we need to act now! Gilding (2019) concludes that the scale and level of risk; the scale of change required; and the speed at which it must be delivered clearly make what we are experiencing a Climate Emergency. As such, he argues, we have to shift to an emergency mode of action to address this risk. Gilding also states that to act in an ‘emergency mode’ which is, by definition, disruptive to the status quo, requires “That the response necessary to address and reduce the risk to an acceptable level requires an abnormal level of urgency, mobilisation and action…”.

I believe therefore that every Multi Academy Trust has a responsibility to urgently take up this challenge and show true leadership in protecting the futures of the young people they teach. I also believe that despite all the other concerns and priorities of which there are clearly many, then all Multi Academy Trusts need to start their NetZero journeys now in 2021 and not leave it until next year or the year after or sometime never.

Its widely accepted that the first stage of change is one in which individuals or organisations may be aware of the behavioural change they desire; however, they have no conscious intention of altering, changing, or stopping their behaviour and this seems to be exactly where most organisations are with regard to Climate Change in my experience. So the place to start and the first change that needs to happen is right at the top, where Governors and Trustees need to formally recognise the scale and urgency of the NetZero challenge and take ownership for setting clear targets and making the resources available for their organisations to make tangible change.

At enFrame we are here to help and support and with our Pathfinder Beacon Trusts, we are working with Governors and Trustees to declare a “Climate Emergency” and establish a “Climate Change Task Force” so that NetZero thinking can be embedded into the values and principles of each organisation and actioned right across every policy and aspect of School life, so that measurable changes can start to be made without delay.

In the coming weeks, I will share the practical steps that can be taken with respect to energy use; estates & building management; travel; information technology (ICT); procurement; waste management and carbon offsetting in particular.

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