Education International
Education International

A sustainable world begins in the classroom

published 5 December 2015 updated 11 December 2015

As nations continued to negotiate their way toward a climate agreement in Paris, COP21 put education under the spotlight during the fourth day of deliberations to bring into focus the foundation of a sustainable future.

Le Borget in Paris has become the world’s centre of attention this week. And as the world’s climate hangs delicately in the balance with governments working toward an accord, close by civil society organisations continued to promote the world they want. Although not part of the official delegations, groups meeting at the Climate Generation venue were making their messages clear.

One of the side events, “The Power of Education – Towards a global climate consciousness,” hosted by Education International (EI), took advantage of ‘Education Day’ at COP21 to show how education is crucial to making sustainable development possible.

“From the earliest age to advanced university and tertiary studies, education is an equaliser, it lifts people out of poverty, and it fuels innovation,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen in his address to a packed audience of a 100. “We are certain that the pathway to a sustainable future travels through the classroom.”

The EI general secretary used the opportunity to speak at COP to draw attention to not only the environmental ramifications of climate change, but also the social ones. He said that an integral part of a climate agreement must make sure “that our children have the knowledge and the tools to not only prevent a two degree temperature rise, but to grow-up with an appreciation of both the world around them and of their fellow citizens.”

Read van Leeuwen’s remarks in full here

Van Leeuwen’s remarks led a panel discussion that included four speakers hailing from various areas of education. Thomas Brissaire of EI affiliate SNES-FSU France, Almoustapha Moussa, the general secretary of affiliate SYNAFEN Niger, Juliette Bohland of CliMates and Students Organising for Sustainability and Sean Sweeney, the Director and founder of the International Program for Labour, Climate and Environment at the City University of New York.

The event, which was part of the Trade Union Forum, looked at how both education and the trade union sector can drive positive change.

The speakers focused on an array of topics, from initiatives in the classroom, to the student movement, the harsh reality of climate change in Niger and ways in which trade unions can lead a transition to a sustainable future.

The panel, organised by Richard Langlois of EI and Graham Petersen of the UK’s University and College Union (UCU), was part of EI’s initiative to increase its focus on sustainable development in light of the United Nation’s new Agenda 2030.