Building peace in the minds of men and women

Wide Angle

Climate change and education


The interior of a greenhouse at the Mar Chiquita sustainable school, Argentina.

Educating on climate change and sustainable development issues is a necessity. In Latin America, there are some promising experiments being carried out that deserve to be replicated, both in the entire region and on other continents. There are some aspects, however, that are being neglected.

Laura Ortiz-Hernández

In recent years, the environmental crisis and climate change have highlighted the need to transform our ways of thinking and acting. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is therefore, a key factor in the search for alternative methods to build a different kind of society that is fair, participatory and open to diversity.

In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), ESD has advanced through the application of different strategies, adapted to the conditions of each country. In Mexico for example, ESD is being implemented at all levels of the school system: educational games in preschool education, biodiversity activities and programmes in primary or basic education, and the integration of environmental protection studies into the secondary school curricula. In countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru, ad hoc ESD strategies are being developed – book publications, television and radio programmes, visits to protected natural areas, and teacher training on these issues – to comply with established regulations.

In addition to the formal system, civil society organizations are also working to impart knowledge on different environmental issues and to support the work of teachers in schools.

According to the RISU Project (2015), which defines indicators for the evaluation of sustainability policies in Latin American universities, seventy per cent of these institutions have a university authority to apply environmental measures; eighty-six per cent engage in extra-curricular communication and awareness-raising activities on environmental and sustainability issues, and forty-six per cent conduct research in these two areas.

The report also reveals that forty-six per cent of universities have an energy sustainability plan, and thirty-five per cent conduct awareness-raising activities on energy conservation. Lastly, thirty-three  per cent of these universities monitor the quality of water intended for human consumption, and 61.5 per cent have a unit to handle hazardous waste management. Half of the universities have an information and monitoring system for solid waste, classifying it by type and quantity.

These figures are rather encouraging. But it must be noted that in the education sector, the emphasis has been mainly on environmental aspects – the social aspects that complement the efforts being made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the 193 United Nations Member States have a duty to achieve by 2030, have yet to be included. This is the next stage that will have to be undertaken.

Laura Ortiz-Hernández

An environmental consultant and research director at the Misión Sustentabilidad México A.C., Laura Ortiz-Hernández is a member of the Coordination Committee of the Alliance of Ibero-American University Networks for Sustainability and the Environment (ARIUSA). She was the UNESCO Chair in Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Latin America, 2016-2017.