Climate change is one of the most defining crises of our times. But while it is very much a “by the people” problem, the solutions so far have not prioritized the role of investing in human development as one of the strongest strategies to address the problem at its roots, with global negotiations failing to include “people” sectors such as education as part of the solution.
What we need today is to rethink the role of education in shaping the humans of the future who will be intrinsically driven to protect the planet and know that their everyday actions and behaviors either protect or threaten it. Equipped and empowered with a climate-conscious mindset that is shaped by relevant knowledge, values, skills, and experiences that their education system must empower them with, they can lead their communities, cities, and countries towards a green future through their decisions and solutions.
Unfortunately, our education system is currently not geared to fulfill this vision of nurturing a future-ready generation that recognizes the importance of living in harmony with the planet and contributing towards safeguarding its future. And this is due to multiple reasons – from gaps in curricula that do not standardize climate education, teachers who are not equipped with the pedagogical training they need to teach for climate, or education leaders lacking the resources and funding they need to mainstream climate in education agendas. But all of these are mere examples that stem from a larger issue that exists at the policy level that begins with the false notion of education being a separate issue than climate and other global challenges, and the lack of political will to commit and invest in education for long-term socio-economic gains.
To reclaim the role of education as the core enabler for a sustainable and prosperous future that will be shaped by an empowered generation of citizens through their ambition and consideration for people and planet, education needs to be transformed across every stage of learning - from early childhood development to youth skilling. And this transformation that allows education to serve as the engine for human development, is only possible through cross-sectoral collaboration, where all the sectors that make up the wider ecosystem around education, get proactively involved in the process. We need to recognize that no single entity or sector can address this global challenge in silos and underscore the need for concerted efforts across borders and boundaries.
At the early childhood development level, this could mean the participation of climate actors in the program design to ensure that right from the formative years, young children can begin to develop an understanding of the planet and the importance of protecting it. Youth constitutes another significant social category for climate action. Their energy, passion, and determination can be harnessed to create a more sustainable and resilient future. Their contribution is also vital to achieving a green transition and addressing the adverse effects of climate change. We should also not underestimate the private sector's engagement in climate action. Climate change is reshaping the job landscape, with new opportunities emerging in green and sustainable industries. The private sector's engagement in addressing climate change is also essential for driving innovation, creating jobs, and reducing the environmental impact of businesses and industries.
The possibilities are endless when we realize that the core purpose of education is to enable learners to lead dignified, productive, and fulfilling lives, while being at the forefront of global challenges that are crucial to human existence such as climate. Dubai Cares – through its flagship advocacy platform RewirEd Summit – is all set to remind the world about the interconnectedness of education with other global priorities and agendas and leverage COP28 as a platform to advocate for education transformation as the answer we have all been looking for and the solution that we all need to implement. And we aim to walk the talk by convening the education and climate sectors together to align agendas, commitments, and financing, and most importantly, share, showcase and inspire education-centric innovations that can unlock the power of human potential in contributing to climate adaption and mitigation strategies.
The urgency of addressing climate change has never been more apparent. This global crisis is affecting communities, economies, and ecosystems. To combat this crisis effectively, we must harness the power of education and collaboration across all sectors, as it is on us to turn climate change from being a “by the people” and “against the planet” threat, to a “for the people” and “for the planet” opportunity.