Climate education is climate action: EOF discusses tackling climate change at RewirED 2021

Education has been under-valued in strategies to mitigate climate change. According to Education International, only 24% of 95 countries that have created or updated a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) since 2019 specifically mention the education of children and youth, while none call for compulsory climate change education as a climate strategy.1

EOF joined global education leaders at the 2021 RewirED Summit to raise the importance of education in tackling climate change. At the summit, EOF CEO Dr. Amel Karboul chaired a panel discussion that challenged participants to view education as a powerful, society-wide lever for concrete climate action. The discussion was joined by youth activist Armel Azihar sly-vania, Helen Grant MP, the UK Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Girls Education, Safeena Husain, Founder of Educate Girls, H.E. Daryll Matthew, MP from Antigua and Barbuda, and Lance Pierce, CEO of NetHope.

Dr. Karboul invited panelists to challenge the view that education policies take years to demonstrate results, and therefore are not well-suited to addressing urgent issues. The panel identified three reasons to reconsider the role of education in tackling climate change:

  • Climate education is climate action. Helen Grant argued that an engaged, educated citizenry is essential to hold policymakers to account for achieving climate goals. Young people have the most to lose from climate change, and she noted the power of having young, educated voices at forums like COP26, demanding action. Armel Azihar sly-vania’s work to help her community adapt to climate change and draw attention to their plights was held as testament to this.

  • Climate education is critical for social justice. Safeena Husain noted that women and girls living beneath the poverty line are 14 times more likely to die from a climate disaster. She urged that this should be a rallying cry for the global community – that those most likely to suffer from climate change, are often least able to advocate for themselves. Daryll Matthew added the example of small island nations, where policymakers must educate young people to live sustainably and also prepare young people to live in other nations as climate refugees – despite producing low emissions.

  • Education adaptation is fundamental to support structural change. Lance Pierce urged that navigating climate change challenges and thriving in the green economy would require new and adapted skills. He noted that this requires a fundamental change to our education systems, and an open discussion with an engaged citizenry on how this should be done. Armel Azihar sly-vania and Safeena Husain noted that reskilling is an important issue in many marginalised communities, that have tended to rely on one sector, such as mining and fishing, for employment – and that these communities should be supported to reskill.

Dr. Karboul summarised the discussion by noting that:

Education has been the neglected child of the climate movement… we will not achieve net zero by 2050 without a deep change in how we act, in how we behave, and in our mindsets.”

Watch the full discussion here, and keep tuned for the launch of the EOF’s new report on “Education for Climate Action,” due for release in early 2022.