Education for Climate Day 2023 has the theme of “Boosting Green Competencies for a Sustainable Future”. The aim is to explore the issues around climate education and to give space to green education solutions, as well as to inspire innovative implementation actions.
Education for climate here in the UK is fairly patchy. It thrives where there is local enthusiasm and expertise but it is fair to say it does not have the status that perhaps the severity of the climate crisis might indicate.
In April 2022, the Department for Education published a policy paper called “Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems”. The purpose of the document was to shine a light on the work we still need to do on the path to achieving net zero and a substantial reduction in our environmental footprint.
While some schools and colleges are fully embracing education on the climate emergency, using it to inform and bring in changes to operations in order to reduce the negative impact on the environment, others are earlier in their journeys.
Whatever stage you are at in education for the climate, these ideas may provide some support:
- The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals – These goals have a clear role for education, not least goal 4 which is solidly anchored in the need for inclusive and equitable quality education with lifelong learning opportunities for all. Exploring the ways in which your school is working towards the sustainable development goals where appropriate is a key way of shining a light on sustainability in your setting. Without education these goals cannot be reached. (THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development (un.org))
- UNESCO’s “Education for Sustainable Development” for 2030 – this education programme has the goal of bringing about the personal and societal transformations needed to change the course of the climate crisis. This is about making sure that learners of all ages “have the knowledge, skills, values and agency to address interconnected global challenges including climate change, loss of biodiversity, unsustainable use of resources, and inequality.” The five main areas that UNESCO’s work on education for sustainable development covers are: advancing policy, transforming learning environments, building capacities of educators, empowering and mobilizing youth, and accelerating local level action. You can find out more about how this is being achieved here: What you need to know about education for sustainable development | UNESCO
- Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) – this initiative seeks to empower all members of society to engage in climate action through ACE’s six elements of: education, public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation. ACE is a term adopted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change “to denote work under Article 6 of the Convention and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement”. (Action for Climate Empowerment | UNFCCC)
- The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – This is a great place to start when thinking about the involvement of children in your setting’s response to the climate crisis. Children’s views should be taken into account: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - UNICEF UK
- Transformations - It is worth remembering that action for the climate crisis is not simply about protecting the natural world, although this is obviously hugely important. There need to be some significant shifts in the way in which we think about, for example, travel. Developing a sustainability mindset is going to be crucial for younger generations. Exploring consumption and ways to reduce, reuse and recycle is central to this.
- Green careers – As learners move through their education, they will be thinking about what their next steps may be. Green careers are developing by the day so consider working with local FE settings to explore how children might be introduced to the possibilities of working in sustainable development when they leave education. Some FE settings already have links established between primary schools and colleges, local industry and FE. This can be incredibly inspiring for learners.
According to Teach the Future, only 4% of students feel that they know a lot about climate change, and a 79% of secondary teachers say that they are not teaching about the ecological crisis in a meaningful and relevant way (Teach the Future: Campaign for climate education). These are sobering figures. There is a thirst for more education on climate change and a strong desire among teachers to receive adequate training on this issue. While change will inevitably happen in this regard, we do need to find ways in the immediate term of improving our offer when it comes to climate change education. And while action plans such as this Microsoft Word - ClimateEducationSummit_ActionPlan_v9 (reading.ac.uk), from the University of Reading offers much by way of a pathway, we must come together as an education community to push this right to the very top of our agendas, because everything else hangs on it.
Find out more…
- Education for Climate Day 2023 (europa.eu)
- Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.