United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Education for sustainable development crucial to tackle climate change

‘Education for Sustainable Development is a key means through which education can build a global lobby for effective action, showing people that, as conscious consumers and responsible citizens, their concrete actions can contribute to lasting solutions to such challenges as climate change,’ said Mark Richmond, Director for the Coordination of United Nations Priorities in Education.

UNESCO will highlight the critical role of climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen from December 7 to 18 (COP15).

Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges of sustainable development and a key theme of the UNESCO-led UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014 (UN DESD 2005-2014).

The DESD aims to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning, a goal reaffirmed at the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development held in Bonn in April 2009.

Mr Richmond, speaking at UNESCO’s International Seminar on Climate Change Education held this July in Paris, said there was a clear need for interdisciplinary and intersectoral cooperation in the field of ESD and SD and that the economic dimensions must not be forgotten.

Interviewed by UNESCO on the occasion of COP15 and also a speaker at the July conference, climate change education specialist Mr Philippe Saugier echoed Mr Richmond’s views.

‘Education in the twenty-first century must forge the global consciousness and identity. Education for sustainable development (ESD) is the shaping of the global citizen; conscious of the challenges that loom over our shared future and capable of addressing them,’ said Mr Saugier who is the Education Coordinator of the CarboSchools Project.

The project brings together carbon science researchers, secondary school teachers and young people to learn about local and global impacts of climate change and research on the topic and act locally to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

He said: ‘At present, in practically all the world’s education systems, sustainable development is still on the sidelines. We must place it in the centre and, then, the very term education for sustainable development will vanish, as it will be obvious that the purpose of education, taken as a whole, in the same way as reading, writing and numeracy skills, will be to restore and preserve the balance in people’s relations among themselves and with their environment.’

UNESCO has produced a special DESD Quarterly link on climate change and ESD. UNESCO ESD specialists will take part in two side events at the Copenhagen conference. On December 10 as part of the Young and Future Generations Day they will participate in an Education and Climate Change event organized by Service Civil International with support from Energy Crossroad and Yale University..

On December 15 UNESCO will co-sponsor and organize A Working Forum on Climate Change: Engaging Stakeholders in Civil Society with the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development Education Caucus, the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future and the World Aquarium and Conservation for the Oceans Foundation.

Alongside the DESD UNESCO promotes education and raises public awareness on climate change through its Institutes and networks such as the Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet), a global network of more than 8.500 educational institutions in 178 countries and the UNESCO University Twinning and networking scheme (UNITWIN) which has 640 UNESCO Chairs and 60 UNITWIN Networks involving over 770 institutions in 126 countries.

UNITWIN promotes the sustainable management of ecosystems through inter-university training and research activities at national and international levels.

ASPnet supports initiatives such as the flagship Sandwatch Project which brings together school students and community members to develop sustainable approaches to preserving the marine and coastal environment.

During the second half of the DESD UNESCO will continue to promote the integration of ESD into national education strategies and policies, school curricula, teacher training, educational programmes and policies. Teacher training will be enhanced to take into account current global challenges and develop ways to support educators’ communities of practice. It will also work to share best practices such as the CarboSchools Project and materials in teaching and learning on climate change. This year UNESCO also published its Enhanced Strategy for Action on Climate Change.

Further information
Special DESD Quarterly on climate change and ESD
UNESCO ESD website
The UNESCO strategy for action on climate change (en Inglés)
Associated Schools network ESD projects
United Nations Climate Change Conference website)
Interview with Philippe Saugier

Publication Date: 04-12-2009

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