Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) at COP28
For global leaders at COP28, members of IUCN’s CEC shine spotlight on the power of education to tackle the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss
A strong presence of IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) at COP28 reflected the urgency and opportunity of transforming education systems around the world to address the biodiversity and climate crises. CEC experts spoke across the Blue and Green Zones throughout COP28, building momentum for climate education and Nature-based Education.
CEC provides technical brief on education to support IUCN’s COP28 Position Paper
For the first time, CEC was invited to present a technical brief supporting IUCN’s COP28 Position Paper to provide context and rationale for the importance of climate education and Nature-based Education in addressing the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises. The brief, Nature-based Education for Planetary Health, was prepared by members of CEC’s Nature Education for Sustainability Specialist Group, and was published as part of a series of IUCN Technical Briefs presented at COP28.
CEC in action at COP28
At the UN Climate Change Global Innovation Hub on December 1st, CEC Chair Sean Southey shared how nature can be a teacher, an oasis, and a space of learning in urban contexts. The panel, Urban Settlements in Transformations - Places of Learning, Community and Self-Determination, explored systems innovation in cities and the role of city leaders, citizens, local communities, and businesses in catalysing transformation at scale.
At the IUCN Pavilion on December 2nd, the session Achieving synergistic climate and biodiversity outcomes through operationalizing Nature-based solutions (start video at 5:11:00) brought together the Chairs of IUCN’s 7 Commissions to share unique perspectives how Nature-based Solutions can remain front and centre on the global climate agenda. CEC Chair Sean Southey emphasized the importance of cultivating a strong connection to nature, from an early age, through our education systems and learning environments.
On December 3rd, Diana Garlytska, CEC’s Youth Engagement and Intergenerational Partnerships Co-Chair & West Europe Regional Vice Chair, was invited to speak during the session Spotlighting Youth Leadership in IUCN, to share her work promoting youth and young professional engagement throughout IUCN and discuss how IUCN is elevating youth voices in global climate decision making. She presented her experience organizing the first-ever Global Youth Summit, coordinated by IUCN in 2021, that brought together thousands of youth from around the world for high-level discussions on the future of conservation. Awardees from IUCN’s Young Changemakers Program spoke to the need for additional support for innovations, and more opportunities to engage. Diana also shared the CEC and WCPA 10-Step Guide to Creating a Youth Dialogue Space, to be published jointly with the WCPA in 2024. Watch the discussion here (start the video at 4:50:00).
At the Ukrainian Pavilion on December 4th, Sean Southey and Diana Garlytska presented on a panel, Nature-based Education for Resilience and Systems Thinking. More information about the event and the link to recording of the session can be found here.
December 8th marked the first Youth, Children, Education, and Skills Day at a COP, underscoring the importance of preparing the next generation for action at the nexus of the climate and biodiversity crises.
CEC Members presented at the IUCN Pavilion, the Moroccan Pavilion, and the UNESCO Greening Education Hub and hosted an evening Reception celebrating the power of climate education and Nature-based Education.
Diana Garlytska participated in a panel at the Moroccan Pavilion Taking Stock of Climate action through concrete Public/ Private Sectors & Youth led projects.
At the UNESCO Greening Education Hub, CEC Chair Sean Southey and CEC Member Laís Fleury of the Alana Foundation presented Nature-based Education and Greening School Grounds for Planetary Health.
IUCN Pavilion hosted an afternoon of education sessions, culminating in an evening Education Reception on December 8th
Session 1: The Urgent Need to Invest in Climate Education
To kick off the education events at the IUCN Pavilion, EARTHDAY.ORG moderated a youth-led panel on the urgent need to invest in climate education.“Young people need not only a seat at the table, they also need a say at the table”, said Abhiir Bhalla from EARTHDAY.ORG's My Future My Voice, who was recognized by the BBC in 2020 as one of the world’s foremost youth environmentalists. Abhiir caught the world's attention when he mainstreamed climate education in partnership with the Delhi Metro.
Jean-Betrand Mhandu, Regional Director for Africa at EARTHDAY.ORG shares that he and his team have been working with African governments to ensure that education is included in NDCs, and so far, about 20 countries have agreed. Now, these governments need resources, the community networks, and the implementation pathways to put these plans into action.
Elsie Gabriel, Founder of the Young Environmentalists Programme Trust in India, shares how her organization is working with formal education systems to reintegrate environmental studies, with a focus on Ocean Literacy, into compulsory curricula. Bryce Coon, Director of Education at EARTHDAY.ORG, reminds us how critical it is to reconnect young people to nature. “When we collaborate with IUCN, we are reminded of the importance of being in nature”, underscoring the importance of the outdoors for our learning and our mental health.
Session 2: Nature-based Education (NbE): Reimagining Where and How Education Happens
“Before we teach about climate change, we need to guarantee children have a positive connection with nature”, said Laís Fleury of the Alana Foundation during the IUCN Session Nature-based Education (NbE): Reimagining Where and How Education Happens. Laís shared the sweeping results of the Global Lessons on Greening School Grounds & Outdoor Learning initiative, bringing together a global survey and case studies that illuminate best practices of bringing nature into learning environments around the world.
Luis Camarago, CEC Regional Vice Chair for South America, and Founder and Director of OpEPA, reminds us that “We are nature”. When nature is pushed out of education, it is not surprising that we are less equipped to address climate change. Luis presents a new approach to learning, Nature-based Education (NbE). NbE brings nature into the core of learning, and is an ecosystem of educational strategies necessary for planetary health. NbE is really a Nature-based Solution that allows us to deeply connect with nature, with others, and with ourselves.
Sean Southey, CEC Chair, closed the talk reminding us that this is the first time IUCN has presented a technical brief on education at a COP, which speaks to IUCN’s commitment to ensuring education is part of our mandate. “Imagine if education could help shift culture at scale, mobilizing and connecting IUCN’s 1,500 member organizations, 16,000 Commission experts, and 1,000 staff across 45 countries”.
Friday evening brought together the global education community, with a dynamic IUCN Reception: Celebrating the Power of Education to Tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crises. Hosted by IUCN’s CEC, EARTHDAY.ORG, the Alana Foundation, with energetic opening remarks by Kiara Kaur, an inspirational speaker and world’s youngest TEDX speaker.
Kiara reminds us that when “ we get knowledge, we share knowledge”, stressing that education should be an integral part of our climate solutions.
Tom Cosgrove, Chief Creative and Content Officer at EARTHDAY.ORG, and Bryce Coon, EARTHDAY.ORG's Director of Education Initiatives, both spoke at the Reception about the urgent need for climate education.
Representatives from the governments of Romania and Poland shared remarks about how their countries are integrating environmental education into their school systems, and transforming culture through raising awareness on climate and environmental issues. Agnieszka Skuratowicz, Head of Unit for the International Partnerships Directorate-General of the European Commission, leading education, youth and culture projects, also highlighted the need to build bridges and not remaining in silos, and encourages Ministers of Environment and Education around the world to collaborate closely together, sharing that this collaboration is necessary to accelerate the transformations needed for the future.
Also on Friday evening, the Alana Foundation and UNICEF transformed the Green Zone, projecting on the Pavilion’s vast dome films capturing the voices of children from around the world. These six films showcased children from 12 countries and how their lives have been affected by the climate crisis, expressing their concerns and demanding effective actions from the authorities. Read more about this endeavour from the Alana Foundation.
Results for Education and Youth at COP28
- COP28 put young people at the heart of the climate conversation, on the first ever Youth, Children, Education, and Skills Day.
- Global leaders experienced the inaugural Greening Education Hub in the Green Zone. The hub was hosted by the UAE Ministry of Education, co-organised with the Greening Education Partnership, supported by its UNESCO secretariat.
- The First Annual Meeting of the Greening Education Partnership was held at COP28, where the Declaration on the Common Agenda for Education and Climate Change was signed and adopted, and thirty-eight countries committed to including climate education in their NDCs.
- The first-ever Youth Stocktake showcased youth climate diplomacy, providing a blueprint to elevate the voices of young people at UN climate talks.