United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Director-General opens international seminar on climate change education

On 27 July 2009, Mr Koďchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, opened an international three-day seminar on climate change education at the Organisation’s Headquarters, together with Mr Dam Kristensen, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Denmark to UNESCO.

The seminar, organized by UNESCO with the financial support of the Government of Denmark, is intended to focus on the role of education in addressing climate change, linking the local, regional and global contexts with particular emphasis on the challenges faced by small island developing states (SIDS). Participating in the meeting are numerous climate change experts and educators, representatives of governments and civil society from all regions, including many small islands developing states, and several multilateral agencies.

“Global warming is the defining issue of our time. Sustainable development simply cannot be achieved without a stable climate. The poverty crisis, the food crisis, the energy crisis, the economic crisis: we cannot find lasting solutions to any of these global problems without bold action to combat climate change and achieve greener low-carbon growth”, stated the Director-General in his opening remarks.

Recognizing the increasing rate of climate change and the severity of its impacts, and in advance of the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen from 7 to 18 December next, Mr Matsuura called for a “radical change in the ways we think and act”, in particular as regards education and teacher training. “For UNESCO, climate change education is an integral part of the vision of education for sustainable development (ESD). That is the vision of a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from quality education and gain the knowledge and skills required for sustainable development and positive societal transformation », he emphasized. “As lead coordinator of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO is encouraging all its Member States to reorient their education systems in this direction. This means encouraging greater interdisciplinarity – recognizing the social, environmental, economic and cultural dimensions of development and how they interrelate. ESD also means empowering learners to think critically and creatively, to solve complex problems, and to take decisions that consider the long-term future. Above all, ESD is about promoting values that will enable learners to become real agents of change – values such as peace, equality, and respect for others and the wider social and natural environment”, he added.

The Director-General went on to emphasize the special needs of countries deeply vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly the small island developing states (SIDS), who are likely to be severely impacted by the projected rise in sea levels and the increase in extreme weather events, as well as the least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa, who are confronted by the threats of rapidly accelerating desertification. “SIDS are also likely to be among the first countries confronted by the devastating social and human consequences of climate change – such as the forced migration of entire populations away from islands as they become uninhabitable. Faced with these risks, there is an urgent need to develop appropriate educational materials on climate change for SIDS”, noted the Director-General.

In his conclusion, Mr Matsuura called for an interdisciplinary approach to climate change education that would also address its social, cultural and ethical implications also. “As a multidisciplinary Organization – with expertise in education, the natural and social sciences, culture and communication – UNESCO has a unique opportunity to lead by example,” he said, while reiterating the importance of raising the profile of climate change education and ESD on the international agenda.

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Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 145-2009 -  Publication Date: 29-07-2009

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