Ministers of education & Youth4Climate delegates exchange on climate education at the pre-COP in Milan

Youth4Climate delegates were joined by six ministers of education for an impassioned dialogue on climate education yesterday, as part of a special session of the Pre-COP26 co-organized by UNESCO and the Education Ministry of Italy.

Almost 400 young climate leaders from all over the world have gathered in Milan to develop a declaration on their demands for climate action, which will be presented to governments ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), being held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

As part of the three day Youth4Climate event, the conversation between Ministers of Education and their representatives gave youth delegates the opportunity to ask ministers questions about the current status of climate education, inclusivity, young peoples’ role in decision making and their commitments for COP26.

UNESCO’s 2021 Learn for our planet report found that under half the studied education policy and curricula documents from almost 50 member states mentioned ‘climate change’ at all.

The session opened with messages from Mr Patrizio Bianchi, Italian Minister of Education, Ms Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education and an inspiring video message of togetherness from His Holiness Pope Francis.

Two youth delegates, Ms Saher Rashid Baig from Pakistan and Ms Paloma Costa from Brazil, asked questions directly to the Ministers of education: Ms Maria Brown, Minister of Education of Ecuador, Mr Neophytos Papadopoulos, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth of Cyprus, who were at the event, and Dr Abdullah Khamis Ambusaidi, Undersecretary of Ministry of Education for Education of Oman, Ms Anna Ekström, Minister of Education of Sweden, Mr Jai Bir Rai, Minister of Education of Bhutan, and Ms Janet Kataaha Musevini, Minister of Education and Sport of Uganda, who joined remotely.

“We not only want a seat on the table, we want to be part of the decisions. We want to hold the pen with you, so we make the best solutions for the entire community,” said one of the youth delegates Ms Paloma Costa, from Brazil.

In a discussion moderated by Ms Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, the ministers shed light on their commitments and local experiences in climate education and Education for Sustainable Development, and had an opportunity to ask the youth questions how they would change education if given the power to do so.

“Young people should be the educators instead of being educated. It’s not only younger students but also education for adults so that both are growing in the same direction.” said Ms Maria Brown, Minister of Education of Ecuador.

The youth delegates will communicate their demands for climate education as part of the Youth4Climate output document, and were encouraged keep pushing for the transformation of education by Ms Giannini.

“You can be the promotor of change in education. You must put pressure on political leaders and international organisations like UNESCO. We have a collective responsibility to take care – to take care of the planet, and to take care of others. Education must teach us to do this.”

The event was co-organized by UNESCO as part of it programme on Education for Sustainable Development, which aims to empower learners of all ages with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to address the interconnected global challenges we are facing, including climate change, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, poverty and inequality.

The session was closed with messages from Mr. Nadhim Zahawi MP, Secretary of State for Education of the United Kingdom, and Mr Patrizio Bianchi, Italian Minister of Education, whose governments are co-hosting COP26 in Glasgow, where climate education will once again be in the spotlight with the support of UNESCO.