Education is the key to prepare society for global changes. It is a fundamental tool to orient the present and transform the future, creating the necessary premises for social inclusion and justice, as well as for protecting the environment, climate and ecological systems from which we depend. Education plays a fundamental role in raising awareness and promoting change in lifestyle and speeding up community adaptation processes.
Education means creating free, responsible and informed men and women who are able to participate in public debate and influence policies, thus facilitating the achievement of common goals.
UNESCO and UNFCCC leaders agree that “education provides the skills people need in order to grow within the new sustainable economy, working in areas such as renewable energy, smart-agriculture, forest rehabilitation, efficient cities planning in terms of resources and the management of healthy ecosystems. And perhaps what is more important, education can lead to a fundamental change in how we think, act, and handle our responsibilities one towards the other and the planet”.The essential role of education in responding to climate change has clearly been acknowledged at the Paris Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in december 2015. It is one areas on which the Article 12 of the Agreement focuses and on which the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) group meets every year. Also in 2015, governments adopted the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, which established a completely new series of goals (SDGs) and where education is a top priority.
On November 16th it was the Education Day here at the COP23, a fundamental opportunity for all interested parties to exchange information on the successful actions and to define the next steps to improve alliances regarding education on climate change. We had the chance to participate in a high-level segment with numerous speeches of particular interest.
To introduce the side event Zuriel Oduwol, a 15een American girl education advocate, known for her works on the advocacy for the education of girls in Africa. Her main request is that the Governments find solutions to help reduce the effects of climate change, giving particular attention to the african continent. Zuriel demands that the young people’s point of view is not underestimated in order to find a space for the youngest in the negotiations. “Children have points of view which differ from the adults. Sometimes we see things that an adult don’t see”, says Zuriel.
On one hand, it is crucial for children and young adults to deepen issues related with climate change (something rare and almost inexistent). On the other hand, it is necessary that teachers use different and new syllabus, adapted to the changes that are happening in the world: “For example, during geography lessons in school, when talking about the weather, it is necessary to specify if we are talking about the old weather or the new weather, because right now it is raining in places where it wasn’t use to rain before; it is snowing in places where it never snowed before”, explains Zuriel.
Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, starts her speech presenting a research held by UNFCCC, which answers the question on what instruments were most relevant to face the issue of climate change. Despite the importance of technology nowadays, research results clearly show that there is no doubt among people: education is the best tool for challenging climate change.It is not enough to talk about climate change, we have to study, understand, and be informed about it: “education in schools is the the key for a green future”, says Espinosa “Climate change is an issue that every single child will have to face during life, regardless of when it is going to happen, it is an unavoidable fact”.
Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco emphasized the importance of the Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, the final document of COP21 underlines that “The parts have to cooperate in taking measures … to improve education on climate change, the formation, sensibilization of the public, public participation and access to information …”Education system is the full time space in which to begin and to orient children’s behaviour.
Speaking at the event, Mr Shyamal Majumdar, Head of the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training said that that Unesco is now playing its part: “Education is not the key but the master key. During this COP23 we learnt something”, underlines, “It is easy to take a solution but really difficult to implement it. Climate action needs more implementation, implementation needs education and skills”.
Unesco fosters efforts to make education a more central part of the international response to climate change; it support countries to integrate climate change education as well as giving importance to the Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) launched in 2014 with climate change as a critical focus.
In conclusion, Mereseini Vuniwaqa, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Fiji, called for long-term solutions: “We need to restore a respectful relationship with nature, and for this we need education. We need to get children out of the classrooms and see, understand and judge for themselves for needs to be done”.
We want to conclude paraphrasing the words of a significant author and great pedagogist:
“There is who educates, without hiding the absurdity inside the world, opened to any change but trying to be honest to the other as to himself, dreaming a world as it is not:the world can change only if dreamt”