If it were not for the Covid-19 pandemic, leaders from around this world would at this moment be gathered in Glasgow for the final days of UNFCCC’s conference of parties (COP26). These meetings to monitor the Paris Agreement have been postponed until 2021 and this must not mean that action to tackle the climate crisis is paused. Action is more urgent than ever.
For too long, we have been witnessing the devastating impact of human-induced global warming. Since 2000, the UN has recorded over 7,000 extreme weather events and the UN body for assessing the science on climate change, the IPCC, has informed us that we have just a decade to prevent the catastrophic consequences of a 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures. If we fail, we will see far more wildfires, floods, droughts and storms causing suffering, deaths, mass-migration, and unrest, particularly in the poorest parts of the world and in the most vulnerable communities.
Education is a powerful tool to help avert climate catastrophe. Universal quality basic education for all is calculated to yield a reduction of 51.48 gigatons of emission by 2050. Educating girls is one of the top ten most effective interventions to mitigate climate change.(1) Yet education is too often sidelined when it comes to investing in solutions to fight climate change. Furthermore, too many education systems fail to teach students about the causes, impact and solutions to the climate emergency.
Education International is calling for climate change education to be ensured for every learner – from early childhood to adult education. Climate change education must be recognised as an integral part of quality education, equipping students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to take climate action. Governments must fund the implementation of quality climate change education across their country – ensuring that it is prioritised in curricula and that teachers are provided with the necessary time, resources, training and support.
The importance of climate change education is recognised in the Sustainable Development Goals (Targets 4.7, 12.8 and 13.3) and the Paris Agreement (Article 6), but progress towards implementation of these commitments has been slow. In 2016, only one third of national curriculum frameworks referenced climate change. More recent data shows that climate change education may sometimes be included in the curriculum, but not in policies or teacher training or student assessments, or vice versa.(2)
As the teaching profession and as a global union federation, we must do our part to avert climate catastrophe. Be it through lobbying our governments, sharing climate change education resources, greening our workplaces or calling out climate denial, our activism is sorely needed. There is no time to lose.