Reports says Partnerships for Schools should concentrate on behaviour change as primary method of cutting emissions

The government will fail to meet its target of delivering zero-carbon schools by 2016, according to a report released today.

The eight-month inquiry by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum into the sustainability of the Building Schools for the Future programme concluded that under the current trajectory the government's target is unachievable.

It also found that if BSF is to deliver on environmental sustainability it must address the operation of the building, both by tackling the behaviour of teachers and pupils and securing the continued engagement of the contractor.

The inquiry identified broad consensus that not only is behaviour change the most effective way of reducing a school's carbon footprint, but that without it significant reductions cannot be achieved.

It also calls into question the allocation of funding for sustainable measures. In April 2007 the government announced £110m of funding available over three years to help new build schools cut their carbon footprint by 60% compared to 2002 Building Regulations. To qualify for this funding it is necessary to demonstrate a 60% reduction using the government's “carbon calculator” tool, however it is not dependent on actually delivering the reduction and the calculator only recognises certain methods of carbon reduction such as biomass boilers. Schools cannot use the money to tackle behaviour change.

The report recommends that Partnership for Schools focuses on addressing behaviour change as the primary method of delivering low-carbon schools and that it should ensure, where possible, all new PFI projects place responsibility for energy consumption with the contractor.

Other recommendations include exploring methods of ensuring that contractors in non-PFI projects are held liable for delivering operational outcomes predicted at the design stage and assessing the merits for cost-effective action to reduce the carbon footprint in existing schools rather than attempting to make all new schools zero carbon.