For nearly 30 years, many governments have recognized education as an important part of national and global efforts to tackle climate change and to lay the groundwork for a sustainable future. As with the original 1992 United Nations climate treaty, it is even included in an article of the 2015 Paris Agreement, as well as related issues such as training and access to information.
Yet despite this understanding and many examples of inspiring projects and best practice — often led by determined NGOs and passionate teachers — climate literacy often remains on the fringes of education systems, if at all. Could all of that change in 2021, the year when governments around the world are expected to step up their ambition for climate action?
Growing momentum for climate education
There is certainly real momentum across the world towards a strong outcome on climate education and environmental literacy with less than seven months until the next one. United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
Much of this momentum comes from a refreshing new alignment of diverse interests committed to stepping up ambition for climate education today and in the years to come, led by groups such as EARTHDAY.ORG and Save our future.
Over the past six to 12 months, teachers, labor organizations, youth, women’s and justice groups, researchers and environmentalists have joined forces in unique alliances to demand quality climate education and compulsory for all.
These movements now represent hundreds of millions of people from almost every corner of the earth and are multiplying daily. A recent Brookings report, “Unlocking the Creativity of Teachers and Students to Address Climate Change: An Opportunity for Global Leadership, ” highlights the power of this moment, noting the various coalitions of actors around the world interested and ready to scale up successful approaches to climate literacy.
The immediate goal over the next few weeks, which builds on Earth Day week 2021 Teach4thePlanet manifesto nearly 33 million unionized teachers Education International and on the recent UNESCO World Conference on education for sustainable development — catalyzes action by ministers of education.
While they may not be directly responsible for the outcomes of climate and environment agreements, their determination and political influence will be crucial for their colleagues in the environment and foreign affairs who are responsible and in determining the outcome. their national programs.
The next big opportunity to do so is the G-20 Education Ministers Meeting 2021 in Sicily later this month under the Italian presidency of the G-20.
In one declaration to ministers and the G-20 released this week, these alliances joined in saying that quality climate education is also linked to strong civic engagement and essential to better decision-making by governments, to building green jobs and building a more sustainable and 21st century economy.
The declaration recognizes the importance of government efforts focused on renewable energy and the electrification of transport systems. These efforts, along with smarter and more efficient buildings and the greening of financial flows, will be critical to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
But it also indicates that without the behavioral and cultural change made possible by climate education and environmental literacy, the long-term goal of “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050 (a goal widely seen as the safety line) will be difficult to achieve.otherwise impossible. This point was corroborated in a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by scientists from nearly 20 research centers.
Research suggests, for example, that changes in individual behavior regarding food and waste, agriculture, transportation and heating can reduce emissions by 20 to 37 percent – reductions vital for the world to control. climate change and within science-based safety limits, the statement argues.
Support for the action of COP26 is emerging everywhere. Guy Ryder, the director-general of the UN’s International Labor Organization, for example wrote about Earth Day 2021 that “The effects of climate change will change the structure of employment. New jobs and new job families will emerge, others will disappear or become unsustainable, and companies will have to find ways to organize work and production differently.
“We need to prepare young people for this changing world. Environmental education can empower students to solve the climate crisis and develop the skills, optimism and determination needed to lead the environmental movement of tomorrow, ”he added.
The good news is that some governments agree as well. These include countries such as Argentina, Maldives and Italy, co-organizer with the United Kingdom of COP26.
In 2019, the then Minister of Education surprised the world by announcing compulsory climate education in Italian school systems. This week, Italy is due to announce how it will be done through its ecological transition policy for education.
While the UK has not been so public on the matter, Dame Karen Pierce, British Ambassador to the United States, says Earth Day 2021 that “We really need everyone to use their brain power and their full potential to figure out how to mitigate the effects and how to adapt (to climate change), in the most innovative, creative and sustainable way possible. Somehow we have to find a way to bring this into the next generation. “
With less than seven months to go before COP26, all those around the world who care about our planet and the young people who will inherit it must express their support for enhanced quality climate education for all.
Almost 30 years of waiting is three decades too long. Later this month, and then again in November, let’s hope governments take the bold decisions to show us all, and especially young people, that it is worth the wait.