Does our new education secretary actually care about the planet?

Robin Harrison
October 7, 2022


Robin Harrison, FISBL, facilities and resources manager, discusses whether the new education secretary will put plans into place to help the environment

As I write this early in September 2022, the Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP has been appointed the new Secretary of State for Education, the fifth in the past year. One of his recent predecessors was the Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, who in his foreword to the DfE Policy paper Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children's services systems, published 21 April 2022, wrote:

"The challenge of climate change is formidable. For children and young people to meet it with determination, and not with despair, we must offer them not just truth, but also hope. Learners need to know the truth about climate change – through knowledge-rich education. They must also be given the hope that they can be agents of change, through hands-on activity and, as they progress, through guidance and programmes allowing them to pursue a green career pathway in their chosen field."

He also wrote:

"I am confident that together we will support net zero through skills and decarbonisation; play a significant part in nature's recovery; build an education system resilient to climate change; and, provide the truth and hope that young people need to flourish in our changing world."

Powerful and inspiring words.

Worryingly, according to the They Work For You website, Mr Malthouse has a track record of consistently voting against measures to mitigate climate change, including the measures below.

On 13 Jan 2021 Kit Malthouse voted not to require the Financial Conduct Authority to have regard to the target of reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2050 when setting capital and risk related requirements for investment firms.

On 5 Feb 2020 Kit Malthouse voted not to call on the Government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial majority of transport emissions by 2030.

There is potentially a real risk that the Sustainability and climate change strategy for education could be sidelined or abandoned as the new Education Secretary seeks to make his own mark. Imperfect though the strategy may be, it remains a beacon of hope for change and provides a positive framework for the education sector to base their policies and future actions upon.

Mr Zahawi is now the newly appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister for Equalities, and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations. Perhaps wearing one of these hats, Mr Zahawi could kindly have a quiet word with Mr Malthouse? The strategy needs to be supported and reinforced, and most importantly funded, not ignored or cast aside. There is no Planet B.

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