• Login

Green Education

Education at the heart of COP28

11 August 2023

“We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” — Barack Obama

The words of the former US President M. Barack Obama may have resonated not only with professionals, scholars, decision and policy makers but also with the younger generation – the students, the youth. 

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, affecting all aspects of human society and the natural environment, inflicting severe and widespread consequences. To address this challenge, a multifaceted approach is imperative - global cooperation, policy changes, technological advancements, and collective action are all indispensable. 

However, amidst these efforts, education remains one of the cornerstones of addressing climate change. Education plays a crucial role in raising awareness about climate change, its causes and impacts, and the necessary actions to mitigate and adapt to it. 

As the world gears up for COP28, discussions around climate education are likely to continue. This article will discuss the role of education in addressing climate change and highlight the UAE's proactive initiatives in this regard.

Green Education

Green education is framed by various theories that reflects its principles and practices. These theories aim to promote environmental sustainability, awareness and ecological consciousness among learners.  For instance, the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) comes to be presented as a global initiative by UNESCO and UNICEF that integrates sustainable development principles into educational practices. It emphasizes the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic challenges and aims to equip learners with the knowledge and skills to address these challenges.

Drawing upon ESD’s holistic approach to learning, the UNESCO launched the Greening Education Partnership, in 2022, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to transformative education anchored in four foundational pillars:

1. Greening schools:

This pillar focuses on infusing sustainability practices and concepts into educational institutions, right from early learning stages to higher education. The goal of this pillar is to ensure that schools at every level—whether primary, secondary, or tertiary—achieve accreditation as "green schools." This involves not just structuring physical infrastructures to be environmentally friendly but also equipping educators with the right knowledge and tools. Hence, teacher training programs and higher education institutions should include components that equip educators to teach green concepts effectively.

2. Green learning:

Green learning is centered on the idea of continuous, lifelong learning that incorporates the principles of sustainability and environmental awareness. The Partnership believes in integrating climate education across various platforms—school syllabi, vocational training, workplace skill development, and more. This includes creating teaching materials that incorporate green concepts, adopting teaching methods that emphasize sustainability, and evaluating students in a manner that reinforces the importance of environmental consciousness.

3. Greening capacity and readiness: 

This pillar seeks to prepare and equip teachers, school leaders, and policymakers with the tools and knowledge necessary for effective green education. To ensure that the principles of green education are effectively transmitted to students, educators themselves need proper training. This includes integrating green education into both pre-service training (for aspiring teachers) and in-service training (for current educators). Additionally, the pillar emphasizes strengthening the capabilities of school leaders and other key stakeholders in the education sector to promote and support green initiatives.

4. Green communities: 

This pillar underscores the role of communities in embracing, promoting, and living the principles of green education. Education isn't confined to schools; communities play a vital role in fostering a culture of lifelong learning. By integrating climate education into community learning centers and promoting the idea of "learning cities" (cities that prioritize learning in various forms and settings), the Partnership seeks to make environmental awareness and action a community-wide endeavor.

By incorporating these theories into educational strategies and curricula, green education endeavors to create environmentally aware and responsible citizens who actively contribute to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants.

Role of Academic Institutions

Academic institutions, especially universities, can greatly influence climate policy discussions, particularly during events like COP28. Their contributions stem from:

1. Research & innovation: 

Universities harness scientific knowledge to provide valuable insights for policy decisions. Through interdisciplinary collaborations, they delve into areas such as climate change mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development, exploring cutting-edge solutions and strategies that champion a transition to a low-carbon economy.

2. Education & curriculum development: 

Universities are key in raising climate change and sustainability awareness. By embedding climate-related topics in their curricula and launching specialized courses on subjects like climate science and renewable energy, they ensure students are well-equipped to navigate the challenges of climate change.

It serves as a foundational channel to address climate change. By weaving climate topics into mainstream subjects such as science, social studies, and geography, students gain a comprehensive understanding of the science, its socio-economic impacts, and the available technological and policy solutions.

3. Community awareness: 

Beyond traditional classrooms, informal avenues, including community outreach, public campaigns, and digital platforms, play a significant role to promote behavior change. They amplify public awareness, galvanize communities into action, and further cultivate a culture of sustainable behavior.

UAE's Initiatives

The UAE’s proactive engagement in the climate change discourse and has set ambitious goals to reduce its carbon footprint. The UAE has recognized the importance of climate education and has taken several steps to enhance climate education within the country. 

The Ministry of Education has unveiled a Green Education Partnership in collaboration with UNESCO and UNICEF, which will provide a comprehensive national framework for promoting climate education and inspiring action among students in schools across the UAE.

Under this initiative, the ministry plans to train approximately 1,400 principals and 2,800 teachers. The ultimate objective is to achieve 'Green Accreditation' for at least half of the country's schools and campuses before the upcoming COP28 summit in Dubai later this year. The primary goal of this project is to empower students of all age groups with the necessary knowledge and understanding to foster positive changes in attitudes towards environmental issues.

Dr. Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, assistant undersecretary for the Care and Building Capacity Sector announced during the climate summit in November at Expo City in Dubai that the UAE will unveil the world's first education pavilion to be featured at a COP28. In collaboration with UNESCO, this pavilion will serve as a global platform to encourage cooperation in climate education.

According to the official, the pavilion will serve as a hub to showcase the Ministry of Education's efforts in addressing climate change and offer insights into the necessary measures to secure its vital role in the ecosystem. 

Other notable initiatives across the UAE include the following: 

1. "The Manal Humanitarian Initiative": 

This initiative is dedicated to supporting the integration of climate change issues into educational curricula, as demonstrated through its charitable exhibition "Design for Hope." This effort aims to raise awareness among younger generations and empower them to act towards a more sustainable future. The initiative is particularly focused on providing necessary educational tools to girls in order to enhance their contributions to climate change efforts. The proceeds from the exhibition supporting "Dubai Gives" will aid in integrating climate change issues into educational curricula and systems, further strengthening the foundation for a sustainable future through education.

2. HSBC Climate for Schools initiative:

This initiative has been launched in eighteen countries around the world, including the UAE, to promote environmental education and raising awareness among UAE students about the importance of environmental protection. The initiative is being implemented in partnership with the Emirates Nature-WWF, the Ministry of Education, and the Environmental Education Foundation in the UAE. It aims to develop a global network of schools in the UAE and around the world that focuses on understanding the issue of climate change and supporting local initiatives that can improve energy consumption efficiency. By benefiting 6,000 students in the UAE, this initiative helps cultivate a generation of environmentally conscious individuals who are equipped to take positive action towards sustainability.

3. The Arab Youth Council for Climate Change

As part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2023, a global platform aimed at accelerating sustainability, the Arab Youth Center launched a series of initiatives focused on engaging and empowering youth in climate action. These initiatives included youth meetings with international officials, sessions on climate financing, dialogues on climate ambitions, and intensive courses on climate education. The Arab Youth Center's efforts reflect the UAE's commitment to promoting sustainable development and empowering its youth to play an active role in addressing global environmental challenges. By providing young people with opportunities to gain experience about and engage in climate action, the UAE is helping to build a more sustainable future for all.

In conclusion, climate change education is a crucial component in addressing climate change, as it can increase public awareness and understanding of the issue and empower individuals and communities to act. As COP28 approaches, discussions on strategies to enhance climate education, increase public awareness, and strengthen the capacity of educational systems to address climate change challenges are likely to continue to be at the forefront of the global climate agenda. This may involve initiatives such as developing climate education curricula, teacher training programs, and public awareness campaigns, as well as promoting interdisciplinary approaches to climate education. 

The UAE has recognized the significance of climate education and has taken key steps to enhance climate education within the country. However, there is still work to be done to ensure that climate education is integrated into formal education curricula, promoted through both formal and informal education programs.