All new Welsh schools must meet net zero carbon targets from next year, Welsh Government announces

From 2022, all new Welsh schools and colleges will have to meet net zero carbon targets set out by Welsh Government.

The Education Minister, Jeremy Miles MS, said the announcement will apply to any new build, major refurbishment and extension project from January 1.

New buildings will need to produce zero or negative carbon emissions as part of their day-to-day operational energy and they will need to demonstrate a 20% reduction in the amount of carbon produced through construction.

This 20% cut will increase over the coming years, in line with the Welsh Government’s plans to become a net zero carbon nation by 2050.

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

What does a net zero carbon school mean?

  • Operational: Buildings are highly energy efficient, using renewable energy sources and offsetting any carbon emissions generated through the day-to-day running of the school. That means the amount of carbon emissions generated from a building's operational energy across the year is zero or negative.

  • Construction: The amount of carbon emissions associated with a building’s entire construction is zero or negative, through using renewable energy sources and carbon offsetting.

  • Whole life: The amount of carbon emissions over the entire life of the building - including its construction, operational impact and disposal - is zero or negative.

The first net zero carbon school in Wales is currently under construction in Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan. Llancarfan Primary School, due to be renamed South Point Primary School, is set to open early next year and will have its own on-site power generation and battery storage.

Jeremy Miles MS said creating more net zero buildings are a "significant step" forward.

"We should all be asking ourselves what we can do to help reverse the damage caused by climate change," he said.

"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."

Llancarfan Primary School in Rhoose will be Wales' first net zero carbon school.

Cllr Lis Burnett, Deputy Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, said the council is "incredibly proud" to have Wales' first net zero school in the Vale.

She added: "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."

Learning about the climate will be mandatory in the new Welsh curriculum being taught in schools from September 2022.

In October, the First Minister formally set out plans for Wales to become a net zero carbon country by 2050, with targets to cut overall emissions increasing in the years until then.

The Welsh Government’s legally binding commitments for decarbonisation are:

  • 2021-25: 37% average reduction with a 0% offset limit

  • 2026-30: 58% average reduction

  • 2030: 63% reduction

  • 2040: 89% reduction

  • 2050: at least 100% reduction (net zero)