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Environmental Audit Select Committee Consultation on the Government’s approach to Sustainability

14 December 2017

The Association of Colleges represents and promotes the 335 colleges in England. There are 232 further education (FE) and 93 sixth form colleges incorporated under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 plus a further 10 special designated institutions. Colleges provide high quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. They provide over three million students with valuable employability skills, helping to develop their career opportunities and strengthen the local, regional and national economy. Colleges are inspirational places to learn because education and training is delivered by expert teaching staff in industry-standard facilities. From basic skills to postgraduate degrees, colleges offer first rate academic and vocational teaching, in a range of professions including engineering, hospitality, IT, construction and the creative arts. This submission covers issues within the remit of the Environmental Audit Select Committee consultation on the Government's approach to sustainability. The G7 leaders’ unanimous agreement to set binding carbon reduction targets, to transform the energy sector and to create a zero carbon global economy by the end of the century provides a much needed renewed focus on a very important agenda. Colleges are highly responsive to the labour market demands of a rapidly changing economic landscape. In the past decade they played a central role in developing the skills needed for a low carbon economy, also taking a lead in related community and business developments within their local areas. Colleges are central in up-skilling the existing workforce and delivering the skills training in environmental technologies, renewable energy, micro regeneration, bio diversity, low carbon buildings and resource efficiency. The college sector has made a significant investment in cutting edge demonstrator facilities where students, employers, stakeholders and schools can see first-hand the benefits of alternative energy sources and carbon reduction measures. There are also many excellent examples of colleges incorporating sustainability into the whole of their wide ranging curriculum and training offer. Colleges are acutely aware of their responsibility to all their students who will be faced with the impact of climate change, many of whom will be at the forefront of dealing with the implications of environmental challenges when they become the decision makers of tomorrow. Developing the green skills, helping businesses to create low carbon jobs, to develop and deliver energy and resource efficient products and services, and bringing all these together into a coordinated, effective system will inevitably give the much needed momentum to the development of a highly successful low carbon economy. This will also help make the UK a global leader in the provision of low carbon goods and services. We welcome the UK Government’s and other G7 leaders’ commitment to carbon reduction. However the long-term targets planned by G7 will be meaningless unless short-term binding targets are set and effective monitoring systems are established. Further Education colleges have a central role in the delivery of many key Government policy objectives. However, in relation to sustainable development, Green Skills and Environmental Technologies, there is a perceived lack of clarity and coherence in Government policy and objectives, and this is hampering progress. It is important that Government now enter into a new dialogue with the FE college sector so that we can better articulate our complimentary goals and objectives to secure greater impact as part of a joint long term strategic vision