Last year at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (or, COP26) in Glasgow, Education International unveiled the Education International Climate Change Education Ambition Report Card. The Report Card featured my analysis of 95 updated, revised, or new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and their attention to climate change education as climate strategy. At the time, the Report Card revealed alarmingly low attention to climate change education. Today, with the number of updated, revised, or new NDCs now coming to 133 (representing roughly 70% of the Parties that have ratified the Paris Agreement), what was concerning in November 2021 has now turned into a set of alarming findings
Finding #1: Countries are not paying enough attention to climate change education
Only 40 NDCs out of 133 (less than a third) mention climate change education. None are calling for compulsory climate change education as a strategy to achieve countries’ climate mitigation and adaptation targets. This is a worrying finding given the central role that education plays in building the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed to achieve any country’s mitigation and adaptation targets.
A good sign, however, is that more NDCs (104) are referencing education and more NDCs (99) are referencing children and youth compared to the first round of NDCs. However, these references are often in very general terms and are much more likely to position young people as a vulnerable group than as agents of change.
Finding #2: Countries are not considering strengthening education systems
Countries are not shy of calling on international cooperation and international financing to support the implementation of national climate actions. However, only 9 NDCs do so in the context of supporting education and training opportunities that could build important technical and adaptive capacities in government and civil society. And only 2 NDCs (Cambodia and Myanmar) specify that such financial support be directed to the education system. Again, this is a worrying trend given the learning crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indeed, countries are ignoring an important climate stakeholder at great cost: teachers and educators. Education International and UNESCO’s recent survey of 58,000 teachers globally demonstrates an extremely high interest in teaching climate change, but a worrying level of structural and systemic obstacles to actually do so. For instance, 95% of teachers feel climate change is an important topic to teach, yet fewer than 40% actually feel confident enough to do so. Sadly, only 12 NDCs point to the need for teacher training, and only 1 (Dominican Republic) calls for the provision of professional development opportunities that meet teachers’ needs.
Finding #3: Countries continue to ignore the contributions that an investment in girls’ education can make toward their climate strategy
Only 30 NDCs mention girls despite the research and global advocacy around the role that achieving gender equality in education can play on building climate resilience and adaptive capacity and helping countries achieve their mitigation and adaptation goals. Seven of these NDCs mention girls in the context of their education, but only 2 do so in the context of climate change education discussions (Benin, Cambodia, Chad, Comoros, Tunisia*, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela*). And, out of the 30 countries that the Malala Fund’s Girls’ Education and Climate Challenges Index has identified as having the potential to impact the education of girls the most, only 5 mention girls (Benin, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Togo). Much is at stake if NDCs continue to ignore the needs of girls, who are in many climate vulnerable countries among the most vulnerable members of society.
Finding #4: Countries most responsible for the climate crisis are not talking about climate change education
In fact, poor countries, countries least responsible for present-day emissions, countries with the lowest carbon emissions, and countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are more likely to mention climate change education as a climate strategy in their NDC than their counterparts. This includes countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Nauru, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Vanuatu for whom sea level rise and more frequent and more intense cyclones and hurricanes threaten their very existence. Moreover, countries with a larger youth population and countries whose children bear greater climate risks, including countries like Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan, are more likely to mention climate change education.
As country representatives and civil society prepare to gather in Bonn, Germany for the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SB 56) meetings in June, advocates must demand that the education sector be considered a climate-relevant sector. Education stakeholders must begin to act as climate stakeholders. And education actions must be integrated as climate actions.
You can access the updated Education International Climate Change Education Ambition Report Card here.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.