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.