By Anna Cristina d’Addio and Daniel April, GEM Report
Fifteen years ago, the influential Stern Review, the first to quantify the costs of tackling climate change, noted that ‘educating those currently at school about climate change will help to shape and sustain future policy-making, and a broad public and international debate will support today’s policy-makers in taking strong action now’. Yet knowledge about climate change communication and education (CCE) practices in in different countries still remains incomplete even today.
Timed with the COP26 held currently in Glasgow, a new evidence base of 20 national education profiles on the issue is being launched today on the GEM Report’s PEER website covering all regions in the world[i] and income levels. This work is the result of a collaboration between the GEM Report and the Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) project. A second set of 50 profiles will be published in time for the COP27, along with a policy paper analysing global trends.
The aim of the country profiles on climate change communication and education is to provide a comparative perspective of the progress countries are making towards the realization of Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, namely Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) and SDG target 4.7.
Complementing the work carried over time by UNESCO and in particular the analysis presented in its ‘Learn for Our Planet’ report, the profiles cover climate change contexts (relevant government agencies, laws, policies, and plans, terminology and budget); climate change education (policy, curriculum, teacher education and assessment) in primary and secondary education; higher education; teacher education; TVET and adult education; climate change communication (public awareness; public access to education; public participation); and climate change communication and education monitoring.
They were prepared through a review and synthesis of international commitments, national laws, policies, action plans and programmes, complemented with analysis of relevant literature and press. Experts and national focal points for Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) were invited to review, update and validate the information. Countries are encouraged to continue this follow-up with comments and feedback.
What do they show?
Some key trends extracted from the profiles can guide policy discussions and debates.
The mapping suggests for instance that: 95% of the countries analysed have ministries of education working on climate change; 90% of countries have a national climate change law, strategy, or plan that includes education content; and 85% of countries have set up national monitoring mechanisms to track CCE progress.
However, only 40 per cent of national education laws and 45 per cent of education sector plans or strategies explicitly refer to CCE. References are mainly found at primary and secondary education levels (90%). Fewer countries have frameworks to support CCE in TVET (70%), higher education (70%) and teacher training education (55 %). Moreover, just over a third of countries have a law, strategy, or plan specifically on CCE.
Some countries stand out for the progress they have made.
Italy has over 100 laws and legislative decrees that refer to climate change. Climate change is included in the curriculum and students are encouraged to “assume ecologically sustainable behaviours and personal choices”. As of 2020, climate change education became mandatory across Italian schools as part of civics education. The collaboration between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry for the Ecological Transition (previously the Ministry of the Environment and Land and Sea Protection) has been a key element over time.
Indonesia has also adopted an increasing number of laws and regulations related to climate change in recent years. It updated its National Curriculum Framework in 2013 which includes climate as a core competence as part of the attitudes, skills, and knowledge that students should achieve. The Ministry of Education and Culture also organizes climate change events, such as the regular Climate Change Education Forum & Expo, which focuses on climate change education topics and provides networking spaces for schools and educators.
Colombia has assigned a key role to the Ministry of Education in CCE and has adopted a strong legal and policy framework on the issue. It adopted a National Climate Change Policy in 2017, which sets out five strategies addressing information dissemination on science and technology, education, training and public awareness and climate change management planning and financing. The Policy includes objectives to mainstream climate change into the formal education system. It adopted a National Strategy for Climate Change Education, Training and Public Awareness in 2010. Finally, it has a Citizen Participation Plan, in which citizens are encouraged to contribute to decision-making processes through public hearings and consultations.
The Republic of Korea has also adopted several noteworthy practices and initiatives in its governance of CCE. For example, it adopted the Framework Act on Low Carbon Green Growth in 2010 which includes the government’s responsibility on CCE. A decade later, the country published its Third Masterplan on Environmental Education (2020), with has a strong focus on climate change. This Masterplan outlines the total budget for the Ministry of Environment’s environmental education projects for 2021-25 – amounting to USD 15.5 million. Moreover, the National Curriculum Frameworks integrate climate change education at all levels, including at the preschool level.
Why climate change education?
Education is a critical tool to help populations understand and address the impacts of climate change, and to encourage changes in attitudes and behaviour to support more sustainable lifestyles and develop new skills and knowledge. Climate change education can enhance the resilience of vulnerable groups and communities with mitigation and adaptation strategies, especially in low-income countries, that risk being disproportionately affected by these changing conditions.
The role of education for climate change was highlighted in Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in 1994. Subsequently, the Kyoto Protocol (2005) and the Paris Agreement (2016), totalling 192 and 191 signatories respectively, renewed countries’ engagement to the commitments. They both highlight the role of education.
Climate change education also made its way also in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (2015), and specifically into targets 4.7 and 13.3. Then, in 2016, UNESCO and UNFCCC adopted Guidelines on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), focused on the six priority areas mentioned in the 1992 UNFCC Convention. Finally, in 2021, the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) stipulated that environmental education should be a core curriculum component by 2025 and outlined a range of policies to transform learning and civic engagement.
With so much recognition of the importance of CCE, it was high time to compile the evidence base that could shift this agenda forward. Help us share these messages. Support our work as we continue to compile profiles over the coming year. www.education-profiles.org
[i] The 20 profiles are available at www.education-profiles.org and cover Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Colombia, the Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Gambia, Indonesia, Italy, Morocco, Myanmar, New Zealand, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, South Africa, Sweden, Tajikistan, Tuvalu and Zimbabwe.