Reducing emissions in schools and kura

Learn more about how we are working to create an education system that contributes to a sustainable future for New Zealanders.

Education's role in reducing emissions

The Government is committed to Aotearoa becoming a world leader in climate change action and education has an important role to play.

In addition to understanding our impact on the environment and reducing our emissions, the education system and the national curriculum play an important role in shaping lifelong learning around transitioning to a sustainable future.

Carbon Neutral Government Programme

The Carbon Neutral Government Programme (GNCP) aims to accelerate emissions reduction in the public sector.

It requires public sector organisations, including state schools and kura, to:

  • measure and report their emissions annually
  • set emissions reduction targets in line with a 1.5°C global warming pathway
  • introduce emissions reduction plans
  • offset any remaining greenhouse gas emissions from 2025.

Learn more about the CNGP:

Carbon Neutral Government Programme – Ministry for the Environment(external link)

We are doing this work on your school's behalf to reduce the administrative burden. 

We also extended its reporting scope for state schools and kura to include all our funded-school activities to reflect the emissions of the full state school system. This portfolio-level picture of schools' annual greenhouse gas emissions is based on centrally held data. 

Emissions Reduction Plan 2023

Our Emissions Reduction Plan was developed to support the requirements of the Carbon Neutral Government Programme (CNGP). 

The plan details the mandatory and material carbon emissions of the Ministry of Education. It covers Ministry corporate, and activities carried out by schools and school boards.

Download the plan

Greenhouse gas emissions inventory report

The emissions inventory report provides an overview of our emissions at all schools and kura. It allows us to look across the breadth of emissions in the state school system and respond accordingly.

See our CNGP reporting submission for the financial year 2022-23:

Understanding our emissions

Tō tātou taiao | Our environment

Our Environment Ecosystem infographic

Click here to enlarge the ecosystem infographic [PDF, 282 KB]

Building a carbon footprint

The first step in building a carbon footprint is to identify the activities undertaken by the Ministry and by schools and kura over a 1-year period.

We start by looking at what we spend our money on and add to that list activities that result from the functioning of the school, such as how our ākonga and kaiako commute.

This includes:

  • fuel use
  • electricity use
  • water use
  • waste to landfill
  • transport
  • construction
  • purchased good and services, including the Ka Ora, Ka Ako Healthy School Lunches programme.

For the first year of reporting, we focused on those activities that we could report on without requesting any additional information from schools and kura.

Applying an emission factor

Following this step, we apply an emission factor to those activities. Emission factors combine climate science with accounting principles to establish a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) emitted within that period for all the activities we are reporting on.

This information highlights where emissions come from and allows us to think about ways in which we can realistically reduce them.

All data collected is then aggregated to school typologies and extrapolated to a national level. No individual school can be identified.

Our highest emissions

The greenhouse gas inventory tells us that our highest emitting activities on an annual basis are:

  • transport
  • construction
  • purchased goods and services, which includes food.

Now that we understand where the biggest opportunities to reduce our emissions are, we will be working with schools and kura to set emission reduction targets and initiatives to meet them.

Reducing our emissions

We're committed to exploring ways in which we can continue to deliver equitable and excellent outcomes for ākonga in a less carbon intensive way, and what we can do to support schools and kura to do the same.

We've looked at how initiatives and actions in schools and kura are helping reduce emissions. While they may not always be obvious, emissions reductions are happening in schools across the motu | country everyday. These reductions include reducing waste, transitioning to cleaner energy solutions, rethinking what is purchased, selecting low emission materials in what we build and self-supplying water and electricity.

Activities delivered in schools and by schools with ākonga | students, kaiako and community are all working to reduce the impact we have on the planet. We have quantified the emission savings as a result of these actions, and explored the impact of these activities being implemented across all state schools and kura.

This infographic shows potential carbon savings per year.

Transport pilot programme

Before we can set targets on behalf of 2,139 state schools and kura, we plan to test emission reductions opportunities through pilots in schools and engage school boards, principals, kaiako and ākonga in that process.

School pilots will allow us to learn and gain feedback on what targets are feasible and how reductions can be scaled across the sector. 

The first of those pilots focuses on school transport. We will be working with about 180 schools and kura.

Why transport

With almost 30.9% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from transport, it is a significant contributor to our emissions footprint.

Our transition to a lower-carbon society will require us to change the way we do things. We all have role to play in planning, developing and operating a transport system that keeps everyone moving. 

Our transport pilot programme is a journey of discovery to create transport systems that suit the needs of those who use them. Through the pilot we will support staff and students to consider the future of transport for schools by exploring the choices available to them, the tools to determine the best options for their community, and the required steps to bring their vision to life. 

What the pilot will include

The transport pilot will include:   

  • a Ministry-funded within-school carbon neutral school lead  
  • age and subject specific curriculum resources that map climate literacy across learning areas, localising learning through transport data 
  • school-specific carbon footprints   
  • access to the 'accelerate2zero' a carbon emissions tool which will allow schools to view, track and set targets over their transport emissions. 

Your school’s carbon footprint

We have produced carbon footprints for all state schools and kura. The footprint offers a representative picture of a school’s emissions.

  • The first page of the footprint shows the collective impact of 2,100 state schools and kura. This reflects activities done by schools and kura, as well as Ministry-funded school activities.
  • The second page is information specific to your school.

If you would like a copy of your carbon footprint, please email

See a sample copy of a carbon footprint here:

Carbon footprint sample report [PDF, 446 KB]

Estimated, partially estimated, actual data

Estimated data is captured from schools similar in size, school type and geographic location.

Partially estimated data is data the Ministry holds but isn’t complete.

Actual data is what the Ministry holds, for example, construction, Ka Ora Ka Ako and energy.

Transport emissions

Transport emissions are calculated using data the Ministry holds on how far ākonga and staff at individual schools travel each day. It is overlaid by assumptions about the percentage of people using different forms of transport.

These assumptions are based on things like the Built Environment and Active Transport to School (BEATS) research carried out by Otago University, and Census data.

Through the transport pilot we will be testing these assumptions to create a more accurate picture of schools’ transport emissions for future years.

Spend emissions

Different activities done at schools generate different emissions. For example, food emissions will typically be higher per dollar spent than money spent on IT equipment.

Spend emissions have been calculated using financial information that the Ministry holds, combined with school specific financial data shared with us, to give us a complete picture.

Frequently asked questions

Carbon Neutral Government Programme

What does the CNGP mean for boards, schools and kura?

As the legal body governing a school, boards are a part of the CNGP. They were originally going to have to meet the requirements themselves.

To reduce the burden on boards, we are reporting on behalf of the state schooling sector. We have built a portfolio-level picture of schools' annual greenhouse gas emissions based on centrally held data and will continue to report in this way on an annual basis.

Are state-integrated schools included in the CNGP?

State-integrated schools are not required to measure and report their carbon emissions under the CNGP due to a difference in ownership of property and key infrastructure.

State-integrated schools can still take active steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

We have produced a guidance document,'Me, growing a thriving world: A guidance booklet', which includes information about how schools can start to reduce their emissions.

Me, growing a thriving world: A guidance booklet [PDF, 7.8 MB]

What is the Ministry reporting on our behalf?

We are reporting on a wide range of emissions including those associated with coal, gas and electricity use, water consumption and waste, transport, construction and purchased goods and services.

These emissions sources make up a significant proportion of overall emissions in the sector.

What type of information is being collected?

To minimise burden on individual schools, kura and boards, we will use data which we already have access to, as well as information that we can access without making demands of schools and kura. For example, we are gathering information from electricity suppliers.

Additional data will be modelled using industry accepted methodologies to help create a full picture of sector-wide emissions.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback