With the rising impacts of climate change across the world, the need for better understanding climate change impacts has become a global priority. This includes the integration of climate change related focuses in our education systems: formal and informal, as well as improving climate literacy of all which would contribute to scaled up climate action with informed decision-making processes.
Among groups in society that are highly vulnerable to climate change are children and youth. In addition to being impacted by climate-induced disasters that threaten their safety, they are also subjected to diverse adverse effects such as limited access to schooling, learning systems being disrupted due to damages to infrastructure as well as limited access to resources.
It is important to understand the impacts of climate change on education systems and the continuation of education among youth and children, as well as how increased climate literacy among the public could lead to better solutions to address climate vulnerabilities and risks.
Climate change and education
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognises the key role of climate change and environmental education plays in local and global efforts. And Article 6 of the UNFCCC has as its key focuses education on climate change.
Additionally, the Paris Agreement in Article 12, under the work related to Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) states that ‘[p]arties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education… recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement’.
This includes addressing the needed institutional support and structures, coordination processes, and resources for conducting activities related to ACE, of which education forms a key part.
And the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 13) also highlights the global need for improving education related to climate change.
Integrating climate change
There exist many ways to integrate climate change into education processes. Some of the ways maybe the inclusion of different areas of focus that are priority to better understand climate impacts into different elements of the education process at all levels. This may be through amending the national and local level curriculums to reflect the impacts of climate change, and the urgency to take immediate action. Others include focusing on areas related to better engaging children and youth in climate action leading to solutions that better understand the impacts on youth and children.
To ensure that climate action is effective, it is important that actions implemented are evidence-based. Education systems could focus on skills related to evidence generation; methodological approaches to climate research which focus on themes and geographical locations that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts; capacity and skills related to data gathering, anaylsing and converting to information that would be useful in scaling up climate literacy leading to climate action at all levels.
It is also important that the generated data is available for educational activities and freely accessible to youth, children as well as the general public.
The importance of climate education as well as public access to information form key components of the work related to ACE that aim to scaling up climate action efforts. Climate education is not stand alone, and for it to be effectively implemented with long term impacts for resilience building, then other aspects such as inclusive and participatory processes; training; as well as cooperation among educational institutions in sharing information and knowledge would be vital.
Additional measures that could be implemented for integrating climate change into education, includes also the introduction of practical measures that reflect the need for urgent climate action; this could be providing further avenues for children and youth for better engaging in climate solutions ad activities; inclusion of professional skills that would lead to climate-friendly and resilient jobs being increased, popularized, and implementable within the education systems.
Education and just transition
Climate education has a key role in the just transition of economies towards a climate-friendly and resilient pathway. This includes access to education, access to information related to climate change, as well as other elements of climate change impacts and priorities being understood by the population so as to have the job sector better understanding the need for a climate-friendly shift in employment and job creation.
Education systems further need to include elements of how just transition could be achieved at all levels, including practical approaches to achieving just transition; through theoretical and practical levels into the education processes.
This would ensure that the youth who are entering the job market as well as the recruiters and the sector would be focused on green and climate-friendly employment, helping sectors to move toward resilient and low emission/zero emission pathways.
Additionally, just transition being a focus in the education system would also contribute to better understand how gender responsive approaches could be integrated into climate action; as well as elements such as social protection to be integrated as a base element for workers of a country: a concept that may become easily understood through interlinks between education, climate literacy and economic development.
Note: This article has been published on The Morning as part of the author’s weekly column.
Vositha is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law, with a focus on international environmental law, UN human rights law, refugee law and EU law. She has over a decade of experience in working on climate change, at national and international level.