Multilaterals, climate change and education: Emerging options for action

The link between education and climate change is two ways. While climate change poses risks to education, education can play a role in reducing climate change and its impacts. That’s why multilateral institutions are taking actions to respond to the climate challenge through education.

November 28, 2022 by Camilla Helgo Fossberg, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
5 minutes read
A young boy on his way back home from school in a flood-affected community in north-eastern Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF/UN0646831/Mukut
A young boy on his way back home from school in a flood-affected community in north-eastern Bangladesh.
Credit: UNICEF/UN0646831/Mukut

Thirty-seven million children a year have their education disrupted by climate change and environmental threats, according to Save the Children. However, the link between education and climate change is two ways. While climate change poses risks to education, education can play a role in reducing climate change and its impacts.

Recent research shows that education, and particularly secondary education for girls, is important for successful climate adaptation. Education must increasingly contribute to sustainable development and be part of the climate change solution.

Multilateral institutions and bilateral organizations are responding to the task, mostly in terms of identifying and planning for solutions, but also by implementing practical programs.

How multilateral institutions respond to the climate challenge through education

UNESCO is the lead UN agency on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). An ambitious “Greening Every School” program, focusing on formal education, began in 2021. Furthermore, a “Greening Education Partnership” was launched at the recent Transforming Education Summit (TES).

The partnership aims to address climate and sustainable development in education policies and curriculum, teacher training, schools and communities, from early childhood to adult education. UNESCO also assists countries in developing skills strategies to support a green transition.

UNICEF works on climate change and disaster risk reduction in many of the 190+ countries where it operates. In East Asia and the Pacific, work is underway to build the resilience of education systems and improve the sector’s contribution to climate change reduction.

UNICEF chairs the Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES), which has updated the Comprehensive School Safety Framework. This will help governments and education actors protect learners and education workers from expected risks in relation to climate change and other hazards.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) supports lower-income country governments in delivering education and prepare for, and respond to, crisis including in the wake of climate-related disasters. An example of ongoing work is a project in Rwanda, which involves minimizing anticipated risks from climate change by building school flood defense mechanisms, and training teachers and students in conservation and sustainability.

GPE is also developing a new way to support countries to integrate climate change and environmental considerations into education sector plans, budgets and strategies.

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the UN’s Global Fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. The fund has, though its First Emergency Response and Multi-Year Resilience Programs, supported countries such as Haiti, Mozambique and Pakistan to protect educational outcomes in their response to climate-induced disasters. In its new strategy, ECW sets out an increased ambition on education preparedness, continuity and resilience to climate-induced crisis.

The World Bank is the largest education financier in the developing world. It responds to demands by national governments and has several education and climate related projects ongoing.

All World Bank lending projects are subject to a climate impact assessment. As an example of an education project, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a comprehensive school safety master plan, including an evacuation plan for flooding and heat, is being developed.

Collaboration between climate and education institutions

Education institutions cannot, and should not, do it alone, but should work closely with climate finance institutions. Such collaboration will contribute to projects responding effectively to climate mitigation and adaptation, and may potentially lead to increased financing.

The largest multilateral sources of climate finance are the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Adaptation Fund, as well as the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), both of which are managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

All of these mechanisms support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) processes.

Education is highly under-represented in the portfolios of the climate finance institutions.

Education is mentioned in some of the readiness proposals to the GCF. For example a project in Bangladesh is building schools to ensure continuity of education in the context of climate exposure. But these examples are too few.

GPE is in early discussion with the GCF to assist the preparation of education and climate project proposals, that may later be considered for financing. This could increase the number of education and climate related proposals being funded by the GCF.

For education to become a larger part of the climate project portfolio, we need to know more about the financial costs and the benefits of projects ranging from investments in infrastructure, curriculum development, teacher training, technical and vocational training, school related adaptive climate initiatives, such as planting trees, or simply secondary education, especially for girls.

The current strict eligibility requirements of multilateral climate finance means that it is easier to obtain climate financing for education where it is possible to show a direct link, such as for instance climate-proofing education infrastructure. It is more challenging to obtain funding for projects with a less direct link, such as including climate adaptation in curriculum and training.

A study is underway by GPE, the World Bank and Save the Children, that looks at the loss associated with not investing in education, in terms of disrupted learning and cost of damage to infrastructure. This study may provide a financial argument for investing in climate education.

The need to act on climate and education

To raise awareness of the link between education and climate, we need political advocacy. Education in crisis situations featured prominently at the recent Transforming Education Summit.

A call to action, Greening Education Partnership: Getting every learner climate-ready states that “education must be transformed to respond to the global climate and environmental crisis”.

At the Conference of Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow, education was on the agenda, and Ministers of Education committed to including climate and sustainability in their formal education systems.

The commitments are being followed-up at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh now, and there are already indications that education could feature prominently at COP28 in Dubai.

Moreover, COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal is an arena where education should feature, in line with the recommendations found in Dasgupta’s independent review on the economics of biodiversity.

All such political advocacy work will raise the profile of climate education, and awareness that investing smartly in education can bring about much needed climate benefits.

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Thank you for this enlightenment about education and climate change. Green pedagogy will work

Nice blog thanks for uploading

Good to see GPE encouraging and gravitating this kind of information sharing. Have you seen the book by Jem Bendell and Rupert Read entitled Deep Adaptation. I found this helpful. Lots from Rupert Reason YouTube too. All Best wishes.

Nice blog interesting

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