UN Climate Change News, 14 December 2018 – Countries should make climate change education a specific, verifiable item in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, participants in the high-level event marking Education Day at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, heard this week.
“I believe that in the next COP we should start asking ourselves what percentage of our NDCs is dedicated to this exercise of environmental education,” said Sergio Costa, Minister, Environment, Land and See Protection, Italy. “We should establish a concrete mechanism, something really tangible, of what we are willing to do in favour of future generations.”
“Our grandchildren will teach us how to protect the environment. We have wasted our time, we have failed. So, we will learn from them,” said Minister Costa, who also called for a COP dedicated to children. “Why don’t we imagine to organize a cop specially dedicated to children, for next COP25, where they are given the floor and we listen to their needs.”
Education, covered under Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, draws strong support among Parties and non-Party stakeholders in the official climate change process. Countries agreed on a draft decision in May of this year on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), the first decision of what will become the Paris Agreement Work Programme, which is being worked on here in Katowice.
Reflecting on a button she was wearing to the event, which read “she’s educated, we are smarter,” H.R.H. Princess Abze Djigma, Ambassador of Burkina Faso for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, spoke passionately about the need to educate girls as well as boys.
“It is education that has brought me in front of you today. Being a highness, of course I have responsibility; but a highness who was educated from the traditional education and also learning other languages to be able to communicate,” said Princess Abze Djigma, who is also Special Envoy of the President of Burkina Faso for the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change. “We need to make our kids climate sensitive - education is critical.”
Ricardo José Lozano Picón, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia, stressed the need to “respect science” and described a “learning-by-doing approach” to local education in support of action on climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports are “our pathway forward,” guiding action at the international and regional levels, but for education efforts to be successful at the local level, said Minister Picón, ACE practitioners need to “translate the science” to suit circumstances at the local level.
ACE, which is also the focus of Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the parent treaty of the Paris Agreement, covers education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation. Each country is encouraged to name an ACE focal point and prepare an ACE national strategy.
“The challenge facing us is that we need to come up with new concepts that we need to disseminate, so that the students will be able to understand the issues of climate change,” said Christine Kisamba Mugerwa, from Makerere University, School of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology, Uganda. She advocated for “action research” to elaborate simple, clear concepts that also draw on the knowledge of the people in communities, people meant to be served by educational outreach.
ACE Focal Point Fairda Malem, from the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, Thailand, said the Convention gives the opportunity for “sharing, partnership and networking” and she shared information about her country’s efforts to raise awareness and understanding about climate change through various channels, including schools and clubs, and reported that Thailand has created an ACE national strategy.
Despite enthusiasm for the ACE negotiating agenda, many countries have not yet named an ACE focal point, and more have yet to prepare a national strategy. The event saw a video of the Regional Workshop on Action for Climate Empowerment for Europe and the Mediterranean Region, held in La Spezia, Italy, in October of this year, primarily to raise capacity of focal points through sharing of experiences. They also saw a video produced by the World Bank’s Connect4Climate programme to mark Education Day at COP24.
“We are living on a young planet,” said Martin Frick, Senior Director for Policy and Programme Coordination, UN Climate Change, explaining that about a quarter of the world’s population is below the age of 15. This means that “we have maybe wasted two and a half generations” since the first UN environmental conference, in 1972, and as a result people were “not educated about the environmental issues as they should have been.”
Mr. Frick welcomed and acknowledged at the event, Talieh Wögerbauer, from the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, “who volunteers to be our ACE ambassador, and I hope you will be joined by many other people of good will, and influence, and power, and dynamism.”
“That’s exactly what we need and that’s exactly what we can expect from working with young people,” said Mr. Frick.
Ms. Wögerbauer, who is ACE Focal Point for Austria, expressed appreciation for the large and high-level participation in the event, because “it shows that you are interested in ACE, that you are interested in our engagement to raise public awareness, to train people, to promote education, because education is really essential.”
“Behaviour drives attitudes; so, we have to change behavior regarding climate change, regarding our sustainable development goals,” said Ms. Wögerbauer.
Debasu Bayleyegn Eyasu, Director General, Climate Change Implementation Coordination, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Republic of Ethiopia, stressed the importance of sound institutional arrangements and “mainstreaming” climate change education “into all thematic areas.”
“For us it’s about attitudinal change,” said Mr. Eyasu, who cited the need for formal and informal education about climate change and its impacts, as well as channels to reach people, such as the media and social clubs.
Patricia Appiagyei, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ghana, reflecting on the suggestion that adults will learn about climate change from their children and grandchildren, pointed out one barrier, that “in some cultural settings we don’t allow children to express themselves.”
She offered a solution, namely that parents attend school with their children at least once to be exposed to the new climate change curricula.
The event saw a dance and performance-art piece by the Children’s University Foundation, Poland, which included the spreading of a pile of plastic waste on the floor. The positive mood of the event was set when people, including ministers and high-level officials present, pitched in to pick up the trash, inspired to do so by the opening speaker, Sławomir Mazurek, Deputy Ministry of Environment, COP 24 Presidency, Poland, who generated enthusiastic applause with his spirited remarks on the importance of education on climate change and Poland’s related activities.
The event, titled Stepping Up Climate Education, on the theme Accelerating the Implementation of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, was moderated by Peter Dogse, Co-Chair, Executive Secretariat, Task Team on Climate Change, Natural Sciences Sector, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He cited UNESCO’s Climate Change Education and Awareness programme and the multi-agency United Nations Alliance of Climate Change: Education, Training and Public Awareness.
In summing up the event, Zitouni Ould-Dada, Deputy Director of the Climate and Environment Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said climate change education “is not just about children, but also adults.”
“It’s about behavior, wisdom and learning that happens throughout life; how we live and how we care for the planet,” said Mr. Ould-Dada.