Building the evidence base for climate-smart education systems: Introducing a new interest group

GPE recently established an interest group to accelerate research activities on the education-environment-climate nexus in lower-income countries, fostering cooperation in evidence generation, amplification and uptake.

December 07, 2023 by Anna-Maria Tammi, GPE Secretariat, and Colin Bangay, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office
4 minutes read
The schoolyard at Nyamachaki Primary School. Nyeri County, Kenya. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
The schoolyard at Nyamachaki Primary School. Nyeri County, Kenya.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Our planet is already 1.07°C (2°F) warmer than pre-industrial times. Without substantial emission reductions, projections suggest global temperatures could rise by 2.8°C by 2100. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events including cyclones, floods and heatwaves are increasing.

These events can be both immediately devastating and trigger broader environmental degradation such as soil erosion, reduced crop yield and disruption to natural cycles on which communities depend.

In combination, impacts include infrastructure destruction, negative health impacts and even forced migration, posing grave threats to family lives and livelihoods with detrimental impacts on education uptake, access and attainment.

Unpacking the evidence at the intersection between education and climate change

Education systems globally are grappling with how to respond to both the social and moral challenges of preparing future generations for a changing world. In lower-income countries, who are least responsible for the underlying climatic causes but most vulnerable to their impacts, the challenge of dealing with devastating impacts of the rapid onset of a changing climate is more immediate.

Flooding, drought, increased incidence of disease and excessive temperatures related to climate change can lead to school closures, student absenteeism, weaker physical and cognitive development, compounding the existing learning crisis.

Girls, marginalized groups and children living in fragile situations are disproportionately affected as climate change and environment impacts exacerbate existing gender and socio-economic inequalities.

Much has been written on both the impact of climate and environmental crises on education and the role of education in equipping people with the knowledge, skills and behavior change necessary to delivering sustainable and equitable societies. Education has always been at the forefront of societal change, but, evidence on the means by which it can help reduce carbon emissions or promote sustainability is weak.

Available evidence is largely drawn from small case studies predominantly conducted in the industrialized north. While inspiring, such initiatives aren’t necessarily ‘scalable’ to a systemic level or generalizable to low-income contexts.

Available research may speak to the education community, but it’s less persuasive to the climate, environment and science communities who appraise climate financing, potentially resulting in education being underrepresented in the mix of climate-focused adaptation and mitigation efforts.

An interest group to accelerate climate change-environment-education evidence efforts

Recognizing these challenges, GPE established an interest group in 2023 as part of the Building Evidence in Education (BE2) network on the intersections of climate change, environment and education at a systems level.

It aims to accelerate research activities on the education-environment-climate nexus in lower-income countries, fostering cooperation in evidence generation, amplification and uptake.

The group’s areas of interest include:

  • Estimations of the impact of climate change on education systems and the integration of this information into education sector, national and climate change planning;
  • Support to education systems to take anticipatory action;
  • Identification of co-benefits of investing in climate adaptation, environmental health and learning outcomes;
  • Approaches for climate-smart and climate-proofed infrastructure and green skills development.

The group seeks to complement activities of other networks such as the education in emergencies data and evidence work led by INEE (the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies) and work on school safety led by the Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES).

Ongoing efforts by the group include a mapping of existing research on the education-environment- climate nexus, with the aim to publish a report in early 2024.

Group membership is open to new organizations

At present, the group is co-chaired by GPE and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Membership includes organizations such as INEE, Dubai Cares, UNESCO and the International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and the Center for Global Development (CGD).

The group is still in the process of building up its membership. Organizations and individuals engaged in research on the education-environment-climate nexus are encouraged to express their interest.

Importantly, membership in the BE2 network is not a prerequisite. Members commit to joining and engaging in the bi-monthly meetings and are admitted on a non-objection basis.

The interest group is looking forward to jointly strengthening research and knowledge exchange to accelerate the adaptation of education systems to climate change and to increase the role education plays in climate action.


Interest Group contact information

  • Anna-Maria Tammi, Thematic Lead for Education in Crisis and Conflict, Global Partnership for Education @email
  • Colin Bangay, Senior Education Adviser, FCDO @email
  • Kate Ross, FCDO @email


Read all the blogs in this series on climate change and education

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