Education: Planting the Seeds of Change

If you don’t change attitudes and behaviors and teach people what climate change is all about, we will keep having CoPs, but nothing will ever change. Education and training is the critical element to move action on climate change forward.

-Veerle Vandeweerd, Director, UNDP Environment and Energy Group

Education is key. It is a critical aspect of both adaption to and mitigation of climate change. While it alone is not enough to conquer this oncoming threat, it is a very important element of our fight.

The UN program UN CC: Learn is a program that invests is people and learning. It is a collaboration to photo-3strengthen human resources, learning and skill development. The idea behind the program is that when individual skills are lacking, goals and ambitions are greatly unobtainable. But in order to develop the skills needed, skill development needs to be systematic (not piece-meal), country-driven, and results-oriented.

UN CC: Learn was launched in Copenhagen (2009) and is a collaborative initiative involving 33 multilateral organizations and 5 countries (Dominican Republic, Uganda, Indonesia, Malawi, and Benin). The program supports countries to design and implement country learning on climate change, contributing to the implementation of Article 6 of the UNFCCC, which concerns raising public awareness, education, and training.

When developing national strategies, countries, with the help of UNITAR (UN Institute for Training and Research), the implementing body, assess existing individual skills against national policy priorities to build gap analysis and create priority needs (this helps create actions to strengthen learning and skills development). The plans then build on existing learning systems and promote both formal and informal (outside of the classroom) learning. The plans seek to strengthen national education and training systems to deliver learning actions on climate change. Government participation is also crucial; many of these plans are integrated into existing national climate change policies.

The five countries that have already developed national learning strategies have had much success:

Malawi: Malawimalawi-flag is implementing its program through existing government structures, such as the National Climate Change Steering Committee and the National Climate Change Technical Committee. Highlights of their program are national planning workshops and an education poster on climate change campaign nation-wide. Malawi’s program has also had a major focus on gender; educating women and getting more women involved in major decision-making, like at the government level.

FlagbigIndonesia: Indonesia’s program is being implemented through their National Council on Climate Change. Highlights of their program include workshops and a UN CC: Learn @ Carbon Update. Indonesia developed three high priorities for their program: training, education, and public awareness. The training program emphasized improving human capacity and institutional capacity. The education program seeks to improve the curriculum by inserting climate change into education at all levels and improving learning materials. The government has tried to mainstream learning about climate change from primary school through higher education in order to facilitate learning. Public awareness is challenging, but imperative. Indonesia is trying to spread information as wide as possible to stakeholders and is trying to engaging the targeted audience (fisherman and farmers).

beninBenin: Benin’s program is still in the development stage, as the most recent country to create a UN CC: Learn program. It is being coordinated through their National Steering Committee, under the head of the National Climate Change Committee. Highlights of their program include workshops, creating a background report, and assessing learning needs and delivery capacities. Benin recognizes that education is needed across many sectors – coastal, forestry, agriculture, energy, etc.

indexDominican Republic: The Dominican Republic had the first program under UN CC: Learn and it has been very successful. It is implemented by the National Council on Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanisms. Highlights of the Dominican Republic’s program are workshops, press conferences at CoPs, assessing learning needs and delivery capacities, and their national training program for teachers on climate change.  This program has trained over 400 teachers to help teach students about climate change and sustainable development, believing the best way to approach the issue is through education. The program also encourages participation outside of the classroom.

ugandaUganda: Uganda’s program falls under the Climate Change Policy Committee. Highlights include workshops, background reports, and assessing learning and delivery needs. During this side event presentation, the Minister for Uganda praised this program, stating: For you to act, you need knowledge, and for that we had to go through the process of identifying and analyzing information and gaps to build a learning program. Important to show commonness and support from government and policy. It is important for all to be united against the danger and risks of climate change. Our greatest challenge is the mindset – how it is perceived across many sectors and disciplines – so it is important to grow-up knowing about it and take that information with you into your sector.

The Uganda Minister said it well – in order to act, you first need to know. Education is half the battle. This should be quite clear in the climate change policy debates that are currently happening in the U.S. Senators have gone on records as recently as two months ago arguing against the science of climate change. With attitudes such as this, people are getting mixed messages and are not getting the education needed. This prevents our government from taking action to fight against climate change.

Finally, as my focus is wildlife and biodiversity, it would be remiss of me to end without stating that educating our children (and the public in general) about the benefits of biodiversity through campaigns like UN CC: Learn would be beneficial. I often hear animal lovers tell the story that, without fighting climate change, our children will not get to see and experience many of earth’s beautiful creatures. This is true and I think it is so much easier to educate children on the importance of preserving our wildlife. After all, animals are cute! Incorporating the teaching and training of how to conserve habitats and species should be integral to UN CC: Learn initiatives. Besides, who doesn’t love watching panda cam?