At COP 24, UNESCO and partners stress importance of education in global response to climate change

Education is a powerful tool to prepare societies for the global challenges that climate change brings. The United Nations Climate Conference, COP24, which took place in Katowice, Poland, from 3 to 14 December 2018, dedicated one Thematic Day, 13 December, to education and the pivotal role it plays in global responses to climate change.

UNESCO organized a series of events together with partners to promote education, and in particular Education for Sustainable Development, as an integral part of the strategy to combat the effects and causes of climate change.

“Education is not only central to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement, but to achieve all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” said Julia Heiss, UNESCO’s Focal Point for Climate Change Education. “Climate change education is not just about teaching the science of climate change. It is about giving learners the skills and attitudes to act upon its causes and effects. If we want to create action, we have to reach the heads, hands and hearts of people, so that they change their behaviour towards sustainable lifestyles.”

This climate conference was crucial in moving towards a concrete work programme to implement the Paris Agreement, reached at COP21 in 2015. Martin Frick, Senior Director for Policy and Programme Coordination at UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “I am very happy that the decision with regards to education, called Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), was the first and, until now, only piece of the work programme that has already been approved. This is proof that our parties have finally understood how important education is.” The decision reaffirms the close linkages between ACE and the Sustainable Development Goals. It calls upon all Member States to appoint ACE national focal points and to develop national strategies for promoting climate change education.

Speaking at a high-level event organized jointly by UNESCO and UNFCCC, Sławomir Mazurek, Deputy Minister of Environment of the COP24 host country Poland, said: “I am glad that climate action and education are so visible at this COP, and that the room is packed, showing the great interest in education.” HRH Princess Abze Djigma, Special Envoy of the President of Burkina Faso for Climate Change and SDGs, said: “The solutions to climate change are right there. We should not wait for them because we are the solutions and education is critical.”

Ricardo José Lozano Picón, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia, said: “We must implement climate change adaptation and mitigation in close collaboration with indigenous local communities and their knowledge. Climate change education requires informal learning within generations, to develop new attitudes and to overcome social conflict.”

UNESCO promotes Climate Change Education as part of its Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) programme: ESD equips individuals, communities and the wider world with the understanding, skills and attitudes to engage in shaping green, low emission and climate-resilient societies.