Will COP28 deliver for education?

As climate stressors put a strain on education, the time has come to increase the political will and galvanize action to make all education systems climate-smart. COP28 can help with that.

November 30, 2023 by Foluyinka Fakoya, GPE Secretariat, Kate Adams, GPE Secretariat, and Sarah Beardmore, GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
A child wades through water on her way to school in Kurigram district, northern Bangladesh, during floods in August 2016. Credit: UNICEF/UN0286416/Akash
A child wades through water on her way to school in Kurigram district, northern Bangladesh, during floods in August 2016.
Credit: UNICEF/UN0286416/Akash

"We are not the inheritors of a broken planet; we are the builders of a new world, a world where humanity and nature coexist in harmony.”

These are the words of GPE youth leader Valentine Mugun Chepkoech from Kenya at our recent Futures Festival to mark World Children’s Day.

They’re a powerful reminder that we must forge a careful path to Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP28) and beyond that account for how children and young people are the most impacted by the climate crisis, the least responsible in creating it and yet the most motivated to solve it.

In the last 20 years, the average number of disasters caused by natural hazards has increased from 200 to over 400 a year–an increase predicted to escalate by another 320% in the next 20 years.

GPE partner countries are some of the most climate-vulnerable in the world, bearing the brunt of increasingly frequent climate emergencies. As education comes under repeated strain due to climate stressors, ministries of education have called on the partnership to mobilize the support needed to confront climate change.

To truly galvanize the level of action required to make all education systems climate-smart and confront the intensifying learning crisis, political will and commitment must dramatically increase. Will this year’s COP deliver?

A framework for climate-smart education systems

In April 2023, GPE launched its Climate-Smart Education System Framework that outlines 7 dimensions within an education system and entry points to address climate resilience and advance climate action: policies, coordination, data, finance, infrastructure, teaching and learning, and communities.

Gender equality is a transversal element across all of these dimensions and is intimately linked to the intersecting objectives of achieving quality equitable education, environmental sustainability and climate justice.

The seven dimensions of a climate-smart education system.
The seven dimensions of a climate-smart education system.

Nothing short of a systemic approach will enable a coherent and radical shift to protect educators and learners from climate shocks.

To foster knowledge, skills and behaviors needed to thrive in a warming world, GPE has launched the Climate-Smart Education System Initiative to support climate-smart approaches in education by reinforcing ministry capacity, partnering with UNESCO, UNESCO IIEP and Save the Children.

The need for political commitment

World leaders must commit to adapt, mitigate and invest in both climate and education.

At the GPE-Oxfam hosted Forging Futures event in Denmark in October, ministers from partner and donor countries alike including Canada, Denmark, the EU Commission, Lao PDR, Somalia and the United Kingdom, set out their concerns and commitments to addressing the education-climate nexus, acknowledging the urgency to take action.

At this year’s Africa Climate Summit, GPE joined leaders from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia to ensure education was not left behind in key discussions.

Building on this growing political momentum behind education and climate, GPE strongly welcomes the first-of-its-kind political declaration to garner action and accountability on the education-climate nexus, moving from dialogue to action, and harnessing the opportunity of the United Arab Emirates’ focus on youth, education, and skills on the main agenda at COP28.

The declaration emphasizes the need invest in inclusive quality education as part of climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. It includes calls for all countries to ensure education systems are resilient to climate impacts, to engage every learner in climate mitigation and to ensure financing proportional to the problem to solve these interdependent crises.

Cross-sectoral alignment to address climate-learning crises

COP28 represents a significant milestone for education and climate because of the increased visibility provided by education-focused platforms such as RewirEd and The Greening Education Hub.

These platforms will host several high-level events on education, increasing its centrality in the climate agenda. GPE is excited to be part of this movement and contribute to the global efforts addressing climate change through education.

At the RewirEd Summit, GPE is co-organizing sessions that spotlight the technical, financial and evidence role of the partnership in developing climate-smart education systems, as well as highlight strategies for increasing resilience in education systems using technology.

An in-depth session on a new financing initiative for climate and education, in collaboration with the Green Climate Fund and Save the Children, will also feature on the RewirEd platform.

GPE leadership will also join several high-level speakers at the Greening Education Hub for a ministerial plenary session to mobilize and strengthen political commitments to climate-smart education systems, as well as a high-level event of the School Meals Coalition to support climate-smart school nutrition efforts.

COP28 further recognizes that young people are at the forefront of the climate movement, and GPE youth leaders Salha (Tanzania) and Valentine (Kenya) will share their expertise and experiences in person.

The increasingly complexity of the crises we face today requires full alignment across sectors, including education, health, nutrition, social protection and economic development, keeping gender equality at the center.

A climate-smart education can help create lasting change that puts the needs of our young people at the center. As GPE Champion, Janet Mbugua, recently said: “Unless you prioritize education, you are setting the clock back".

Let’s make COP28 the moment we turn the tide on the education and climate crises with an urgency for now and generations to follow.


Learn more on GPE’s COP28 program.


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

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