As the sun sets on Sharm El Sheikh’s first African UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) on Climate Change, the world holds its breath to see if the “Implementation COP” will lead to concrete action towards the target of keeping warming to below 1.5 degrees.
While many are skeptical about the prospects for progress with 165 countries still yet to present new Nationally Determined Contributions pledges to achieve that goal despite commitments last year in Glasgow and negotiations still faltering on the last day, there is still room for hope.
What impressed me at this year’s COP27 conference was the immense bottom-up movement for change which continues both to pressure governments to do the right thing, but also to take matters into their own hands – from emission reductions to eco-system restoration to youth mobilization.
Also promising is the potential for education to take a much more prominent role in the agenda moving forward. Here are 5 key takeaways for the education community from this year’s COP:
1. Education is gaining prominence beyond the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) agenda
Although education has been mentioned in COP’s formal negotiations at least 32 times beginning in 1998, its framing has largely centered on the ACE Agenda: The overarching goal of ACE is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action, through the six ACE elements - climate change education and public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues.
While this has ensured continuous attention to the critical need for a mindset and behavior shift to help drive wider climate change mitigation and adaptation goals, the wider role of education as driving systemic solutions to the climate and environment crises at the frontlines has yet to be realized.
Nevertheless, this year featured the first-ever Climate Literacy Hub with daily events on education in addition to a plethora of education-focused events across the formal and informal agendas of the conference.
The inaugural meeting of UNESCO’s Greening Education Partnership on November 10 also signals a growing momentum in the education community to look more comprehensively at what is needed to accelerate the education solution to the climate emergency.