Climate education in the spotlight at COP26: Ministers of Education and Environment meet for historic event

UNESCO’s call to enhance global commitment to climate education was echoed at COP26 today, through a day of events with Ministers of Education and Environment, teachers, civil society and youth.

Climate education is critical for climate action, yet new UNESCO data from 100 countries shows that only half of the world’s national education curricula make any reference to climate change.

For the first time, Ministers of Education and Environment came together today at COP26 to pledge to integrate climate change and sustainable development into learning in an event co-organized by the UK Presidency, Government of Italy, UNESCO and youth partners MockCOP and Youth4Climate.

“Learning to care – a simple message from COP26 in Glasgow. This is a historic day for climate education, but we will not reach the ambitions of the young people we serve without ensuring these promises translate to actions,” said UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini.

Inter-Ministerial collaboration for climate action and the need for climate education was stressed in keynote speeches by the Rt. Hon. Nadhim Zahawi, UK Secretary of State for Education, Rt. Hon. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 Presidency, Prof. Patrizio Bianchi, Italian Minister of Education and Prof. Roberto Cingolani, Minister of Ecological Transition.

“To work on climate change is to work on peace, and to work on peace is to work on solidarity. But we have to start from education. We have to start from our teachers,” said Prof. Roberto Cingolani, Italy’s Minister of Ecological Transition.

Governments from around the world sent video pledges to increase climate education, integrate Education for Sustainable Development and to highlight good practices.

Watch government pledges for climate education

Government representatives of education and environment from Japan, Malawi, Greece, Colombia, Scotland and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe made live pledges, before answering a series of questions from young people on access to climate education, inter-sectoral partnership and whole-school approaches to sustainability from different areas of the world.

“With 16% enrollment in secondary education in Malawi, as I fight for education provision, I think I’m also fighting for climate change,” said Ms. Agnes NyaLonje, Minister of Education, Malawi.

Youth voices were given a platform throughout the session, from the Youth4Climate and MockCOP partners and through a compilation of videos submitted to UNESCO from young people around the world on their vision for the transformation of education so they can learn for our planet.

“Young people are scared. Young people are seeing headlines in the news that are terrifying and makes them feel powerless – our education needs to give us the skills, the knowledge, the coping mechanisms, to turn those feelings into agency and action,” said Phoebe Hanson, MockCOP.

The Joint Event of Education and Environment Ministers Summit – Together for Tomorrow: Education and Climate Action, capped off a day of events which focused on the importance of climate education including a joint OECD, Education International and UNESCO event Teaching for Climate Action: Schools Shaping the Future, an Earth Day Roundtable: Why Climate Literacy & Civic Skill Building Will Solve the Climate Crisis and a Facebook Live interview between UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini and Ismail Farjia, a member of the Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN).

Ms Giannini committed that UNESCO would keep up the momentum and carry forward the government pledges from now to the next COP and beyond through its programmes on Education for Sustainable Development, committing to green every curriculum and every school so every student can learn to take care of one another and the planet.


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