On the 2nd of December, the first day of COP25, the Spanish Pavilion hosted a side-event about the “International Educational Coordination in the face of the Climate Change Emergency”. We interviewed one of the speakers, Joaquim Ramos Pinto, the president of Aspea (Portuguese Association of Environmental Education), on the topic of education and participation of civil society in decision making processes.
We heard in the previous session that the most successful projects of the association are volunteer projects. How involved are the local communities in these projects? And what is the importance of this in the fight against climate change?
When I said that the volunteer projects are the most successful ones, it is in the context of a demobilized society, a society with a lot of requests in terms of cultural, sporting, leisure, and professional activities.
This means that there is a lot of work that we need to do in order to involve people in our activities, and we noticed that in the last year participation increased. Previously, we saw that people would participate in social and humanitarian volunteer activities, but not in the environmental ones. And that is why I say that, in the last year, and maybe due to the regular occurrence of these events, the participation has increased. This means that people are starting to be aware of the problems and to act on them, and also to reflect on their everyday actions. These are the goals of environmental volunteering: it is not just about the action itself, but also about people realizing that their everyday behavior needs to change. The participants of these activities are usually people that are part of the local community.
How can the civil society participate in the decision making at the COP?
There are a lot of events happening, we can’t even take part to all of them. The civil society can be noticed in many ways, for example, by creating lobbies, which are necessary in organizations, and thus communicate with public decision-makers.
For example, a Ministerial meeting to discuss important issues among the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) will soon take place, and we (Aspea) are in contact with the CPLP Secretariat, and with people connected to the Portuguese Ministry as a way to present ideas and challenges. We need to know what the appropriate channels are in order to make our vision and proposals known to the politicians. We must find the right communication tools to make our ideas reach the decision-makers. Here, we are in a very favorable position since the Secretary-general of the UN recognizes the role of young people and civil society in the help of climate crisis. Another way people can participate is by mobilizing, by creating networks and by giving voice to that mobilization, as well as approaching the media (some of which are present at COP) and presenting ideas.
Another way, at cop, is by organizing events, like the one that took place today. The #EA26 is a movement that deals with several social issues, including environmental education, and on the 26th day of every month organizes a public event related to the topic studied that month. The movement had the opportunity to share here at the COP their experience, with the support of the Spanish Ministry of environment. On Wednesday, 4th of December, there will be another action involving the civil society, which is aimed at launching a process to develop a national strategy on environmental education. These are all ways to participate and to contribute to decision making. By sharing these experiences at the COP, politicians can become aware of them and integrate them in their policies.
In conclusion, the best ways to participate are: getting to the media, approaching politicians and developing synergies with them, and presenting concrete proposals.