“Rooting sustainability starts on the benches of schools,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at a high-level panel organized as part of a full day dedicated to education at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco on 14 November 2016.
“There is definitely growing realization that education is not an ‘add on’ but an integral part of any strategy to combat climate change and the key to a green future,” she said. “For the first time ever, we have a single internationally-agreed goal that makes specific reference to Education for Sustainable Development in target 4.7 This goal does not only focus on getting all children to school, but on what they learn – on skills, on competencies for global citizenship and sustainable development.”
Among the panellists of the side-event entitled “Education – A key driver to scale-up climate action” were Ms Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco and the Minister of Education and Vocational Training of Morocco, Mr Rachid Benmokhtar Benabdellah. They discussed how education can enhance the implementation of the climate agenda.
Ms Bokova emphasized that the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement must be seen together as a single blueprint for humanity and planet, with education at the nexus. “We will not succeed in implementing the Paris Climate Agreement without awareness-raising, without changing behaviours and mentalities, without a mobilisation of governments, civil society and the private sector, without elevating the status of teachers. This starts with education. The green economy will not work without a green society and citizens who are aware of the stakes of climate change.”
HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa, President of the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection, said: “It is our duty to work together with UNESCO and UNFCCC to develop and improve environmental education, particularly with regard to climate”. She explained that the Foundation is working on several fronts to raise environmental awareness among young generations through the education system as well as among adults, and partnering with businesses to install renewable energy in rural schools.
Ms Espinosa affirmed that it was time to implement the “monumental” Paris Agreement which requires “trained and empowered people and education”. Together with Ms Espinosa, Ms Bokova launched a new guidance document for policy makers, developed by UNESCO and UNFCCC, “Action for Climate Empowerment: Guidelines for accelerating solutions through education, training and public awareness”.
“These guidelines strike at the heart of our joint role in setting normative standards, in providing guidance to our Member States,” said Ms Bokova. “Every single one – from vulnerable small island developing states to advanced industrial nations – has to step up action.” The guidelines propose a clear 10-step plan for empowering stakeholders to find and implement solutions for climate change through a strategic, comprehensive and results-based approach.
UNESCO also launched a new publication of its Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, “PLANET: Education for environmental sustainability and greengrowth” which looks at how education enables individuals to better cope with, and reduce their vulnerability to, the dangers associated with climate change. Manos Antoninis, Senior Policy Analyst of the GEM, said: “PLANET emphasizes the need for schools and teachers to look at more than just a transfer of knowledge. We need our schools and lifelong learning programmes to focus on economic, environmental and social perspectives that help nurture empowered, critical, and competent citizens.”
Oddly, none of this was reported in the mainstream British media.