Italy becomes first country to require climate change studies in schools | Earth Day Network

By Brandon Pytel

Italy is the first country to incorporate climate change and sustainable development into its national curriculum, according to an exclusive Reuters interview with Italy’s Minster of Education Lorenzo Fioramonti published Tuesday morning.

Italian schools will dedicate nearly one hour a week to discuss climate change issues, at the start of the next academic school year, Fioramonti announced.

“I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school,” said Fioramonti.

Earth Day Network strongly supports the Italy’s decision, which corresponds with the organization’s environmental education campaign.

“We are humbled and honored by Italian Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti’s statement and his continued commitment to protecting the environment and supporting climate change education,” said Tracey Ann Ritchie, vice president of programs and partnerships at Earth Day Network. “We are optimistic that other countries will join Italy in its commitment to educating youth about the ecological, economic and social impacts of climate change, both locally and globally.”

According to Ritchie, countries like India, Brazil, Kenya, Philippines, China, Japan, Tanzania, Colombia and Finland have had environmental education formally mandated in their national curriculum for years, some even decades.

“Now, we are seeing countries like Italy, Mexico and Finland evolve to focus more specifically on climate change education and how their students can be leaders in the fields of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math], sustainability and our rapidly evolving global economy,” said Richie.

Earlier this year, the Mexican government amended its constitution to include an understanding of and respect for the natural world as a basic requirement of education. Presently, Educación Ambiental México, a network of 15 environmental NGOs, is working with Mexico’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment to create a new environmental education law, making both environmental sustainable development education obligatory throughout Mexican schools.

The interview on Tuesday reaffirmed the Italian Education Ministry’s commitment to environmental causes. Only weeks earlier, Fioramonti lent support to Earth Day and the greater environmental movement when he recorded a video for a six-month countdown to Earth Day 2020 briefing call.

“Climate change is not just an environmental problem,” said Fioramonti in the video. “It’s a problem of social justice, it’s a problem of access, it’s a problem of energy, it’s a problem of social coordination across many countries.”

The decision from Italy comes at a crucial time for the planet, when unchecked greenhouse gas emissions are wreaking havoc on the Earth, fueling wildfires and hurricanes, drowning coastlines and displacing millions of people. The United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives us 10 years to halve our greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst effects of a climate catastrophe.

Recently, the world has seen people take to the streets by the millions, holding world leaders accountable for government inaction on climate change and demanding change. Organized by youth climate activists, and led by voices like 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and founder of Fridays for Future Greta Thunberg, these strikes and marches are forcing national and international conversation on climate change.

“We have a young generation of students and activists,” said Fioramonti on the October 22 briefing call. “They are mobilizing across the planet. And we, perhaps, have also a generation of politicians that are willing to take responsibility for a radical transformation of our economy.”

Earth Day Network challenges all national education leaders to make bold commitments like the announcement from Italy this week to ensure a safe, sustainable and healthy future for all students. To that end, Earth Day Network provides resources, opportunities and partnerships to ensure students and educators have the tools they need to advance climate literacy together with the support of their governments.

Download educational resources and learn more about Earth Day Network’s commitment to environmental literacy at its environmental education page. April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Now is the time for a global mobilization in defense of the environment: Join the movement.