Climate Education

Italy and Mexico announce bold climate education initiatives at COP25

Education is “indispensable” in the fight against climate change, said Patricia Espinosa, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary, today at a press conference hosted by Earth Day Network at the U.N.’s international climate conference.

“We are now at a point where it is vital that climate change becomes part of the education system,” said Espinosa at the press conference, which occurred during the 25th Conference of Parties (COP25) in Madrid.

Espinosa joined Italy’s Minster of Education Lorenzo Fioramonti and Mexico’s Vice Minister of Global Affairs Martha Delgado, who each announced recent bold education initiatives from their respective countries. Fioramonti confirmed Italy’s climate change education mandate across all schools in the country, as initially reported by Reuters last month.

“A responsible citizen in this century is a sustainable citizen,” said Fioramonti.

Fioramonti also outlined some specifics of his country’s program: Climate education will be a weekly, graded mandate for all Italian schools at all grade levels. The country will train teachers starting January 1, 2020, with the plan of kicking off this new curricula September 1 that year.

Climate change is a societal issue, argued Fioramonti, and educational programming should reflect climate change’s far-reaching impacts. Rather than teaching students about isolated subjects, climate education should encourage students to think in systems.

“We need more and more systems thinkers and fewer erudites who know very well one thing but completely ignore all the rest,” said Fioramonti. “[Education is] about connecting knowledge and being able to see the interconnections across different types of knowledge.”

Following Fioramonti was Mexico’s Vice Minister of Global Affairs, Martha Delgado, who announced that the country would incorporate environmental education into its constitution.

“It is a pity that we’ve had 30 years of discussion without taking [education] as the key element to change,” said Delgado.

Delgado also recognized the importance of incorporating indigenous perspectives into climate education and how their values and way of living is necessary to understanding a sustainable future.

Both Delgado and Fioramonti referenced the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their statements. SDG 4 aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The announcements come after a year of civic unrest over government inaction on climate change. Nearly all countries are on pace to miss emissions targets set under the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, and the world’s second-largest emitter, the United States, filed paperwork last month to pull out of the accord altogether.

Many activists, inspired by climate organizations and youth leaders like 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, are demanding more urgency from their governments, striking and taking to the streets to ensure their voices are heard. Tuesday’s press conference on climate education indicates that at least some leaders are listening.

“We fully and absolutely support young people’s cause for climate action,” said Espinosa. “We must lead by example, but we also must listen to our children.”

Credit for photo at top: @EmiBarbiroglio via Twitter