Tuesday, January 24, 2023 is International Day of Education, an opportunity to look at why climate change education is important and to highlight how UN Climate Change and its partners are bringing together government experts, along with practitioners and learners, to boost knowledge about climate change.
To coincide with International Day of Education, the UN body also launched a new space on LinkedIn to promote sharing of information, resources, knowledge, and collaboration on the issue.
Climate change education is one central foundation to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. It can provide everyone – children, youth and adults – with the necessary knowledge and skills to deal with climate change both in terms of building resilience to ever more severe and unpredictable weather and harnessing the many opportunities of clean, sustainable and just economies.
Networking is crucial to connect the community of professionals, practitioners and learners working on climate change education – through training sessions and exchanges of practical information.
Climate Education sorely lacking
Education about climate change, above all for young people, is presently sorely lacking on a global scale. According to a recent report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), young people are dissatisfied with the quality of climate change education they presently receive. 27% of respondents say they cannot at all explain what climate change is and 41% say they are only able to explain the broad principles of climate change.
The report was presented by UNESCO at last year’s Climate Change Conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and was based on a global survey involving around 17,500 young people from 166 countries on youth and climate education.
Some 77% of the young people polled strongly agree that climate change should be taught by people from various backgrounds, to address the complexity of the issue. Many want to go beyond school walls to learn through project-based activities, including working with local organisations and experts.
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) as a key toolbox for climate education
The importance of climate change education has long been firmly anchored in the UN climate change process, in a field of work called Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). ACE is a toolbox which includes climate change education, public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation on these matters.
Recognising the growing importance of ACE, governments adopted the Glasgow work programme on ACE at COP26 two years ago. Through this work programme, countries and companies are, for example, to be put in a better position to build an appropriately skilled workforce for the just transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies. Furthermore, university graduates are to be enabled to understand how their chosen profession can contribute to the cause of and solutions to the climate crisis.
At COP27, a special ministerial round table on climate change education was held, and governments adopted a four-year action plan to flesh out specific activities that were agreed in principal in Glasgow. The plan foresees greater regional and international cooperation on climate change education through dialogues, workshops and consultations over the next years, along with increased support for ACE and better reporting.
Focus on greening schools and learning
Last year, the UN Climate Change secretariat contributed to the global discussion on how to improve climate change education with a series of events co-organised with UNESCO titled “Climate Change Education for Social Transformation”. These webinars explored the critical role and ways of greening education policies and curricula and aligning them with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The webinars brought together policymakers, experts, teachers, students and activists from around the world to share their stories and call to action. In particular, the voices of youth, women, indigenous and traditional leaders were heard, who expressed the urgency to act on climate change and called for more financial and capacity-building support.
This series will continue this year in the lead up to COP28 in Dubai, with a focus on greening schools. This is also happening in the context of the UN-led Greening Education Partnership, which looks at how to green schools, learning, capacity-building and entire communities and sets out clear goals – for example that all school leaders and at least one teacher per school are trained on how to integrate climate change education into teaching and learning.