Building peace in the minds of men and women

New UNESCO study highlights achievements and gaps in the area of climate change education

06 December 2019

As United Nations leaders and delegates from around the world meet in Madrid for COP25 – the UN two-week conference on climate change, UNESCO is releasing a new analysis of country submissions on climate change education, training and public awareness.

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time and education plays a critical role in designing appropriate responses to it. Since its entry into force, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Article 6 has recognized the importance of ‘education, training and public awareness’ in mitigating ‘dangerous human interference with the climate system’. The Paris Agreement, in its article 12, reaffirmed this recognition in 2015.

Countries are expected to submit national reports to the UNFCCC on a regular basis on the actions they have already taken to address climate change and the commitments they plan for the future. Analyzing these submissions, UNESCO provides a timely status report on the implementation of climate change education around the world, highlighting achievements and remaining gaps.

The research recalls that almost all countries included some reference to climate change education in their country submissions under the UNFCCC reporting processes. This demonstrates a certain level of commitment to climate change education, providing a good basis to further scale up educational responses to the world’s greatest challenge.

According to the submissions analyzed, countries mostly reference climate change education in relation to public awareness, suggesting that it will be necessary for them to expand their activities and address more systematically the other elements of climate change education, especially formal education and training.

Submissions also indicate that, at all levels of formal education, countries have heavily emphasized cognitive learning over social-emotional and behavioral learning, which are crucial tools to empower learners and make change happen.

The data also show that countries are slow to address climate change education when preparing their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. This indicates a need for more technical support for countries on climate change education in preparing these reports which play an important role in setting targets and committing to take action against climate change.

Ultimately, UNESCO’s study stresses the need for further research, in order to get a more comprehensive picture of country implementation of climate change education under the UNFCCC process. Among other things, future research should examine the process countries go through in formulating and implementing their national adaptation plans, adaptation communications and long-term climate strategies.