Climate risks to the education sector
Physical damage to buildings from floods, high winds and tropical storms is becoming more common across many countries. It is not just water and wind-related hazards: an extreme heat warning after unprecedented temperatures in the United Kingdom in July also led to temporary school closures. In many cases, the capacity to deliver education is impeded by these direct effects.
The effects of extreme weather often last long beyond the event itself. Schools and other community buildings are used for evacuation shelters in the case of exposure to extreme events.
While this is critical to save lives, repurposing facilities also means that they are not available to return to active classrooms for weeks to months afterwards, again impeding access.
In 2019, in Manicaland, Zimbabwe, tropical cyclone Idai led to 40 days of lost education due to the event itself, and further days were lost as those whose homes had been destroyed sheltered in school buildings until alternative arrangements could be made.
In addition to these direct effects on the availability of education, there are also more indirect effects of climate on the accessibility and quality of education.
Even if schools are open and functioning, climate change-induced pressures on livelihoods may cause parents to deprioritize sending their children to school. Likewise, even if teachers and children are present, their capacity to teach and learn will be inhibited if they have experienced the trauma of the destructive impacts of climate hazards, or if they are hungry or nutritionally deprived and unable to fully concentrate.
Education builds skills to respond to climate change
Education has a key role to play in building the skills necessary to enable effective climate change response. In the most direct link, climate change education increases awareness of the causes and consequences of climate change.
Specific skills training can also build a workforce able to work in green jobs that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. This may include installing renewable energy infrastructure or promoting nature-based solutions to reduce the risk of extreme events.
In addition to climate change education and specific training for green jobs, there is a more indirect link in that education has a foundational role, particularly for girls. Girls’ education and the empowerment that it brings about is strongly correlated with improvements in adaptive capacity and reduced vulnerability to climate change.
Climate finance has arisen under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a way of enabling support for mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global temperature increase, and for adapting to the consequences of climate change.
To distinguish it from more traditional development finance, climate finance typically requires a strong rationale for how intended activities explicitly enable adaptation to climate change, or mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Eligibility of education for climate finance
The strong climate rationale required under current eligibility criteria means that direct links between climate and education are easier to justify for climate finance.
This means that there is a stronger case for climate finance for addressing the impact of climate change on education infrastructure, and in promoting climate change education, than for the indirect linkages of quality and accessibility of education and the foundational role of education, which are better suited to traditional development finance.
As shown in the diagram, this means that a subset of overall education sector activities are likely to be climate finance-eligible.