Resolution on: “Defending Education, Sustaining the World”

published 17 September 2019 updated 17 September 2019

The 8th Education International (EI) World Congress meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, from 21st to 26th July 2019,

(1) Climate change is an unquestionable reality that is already profoundly impacting not only on our environment, but also on our lives. Its most serious consequences include an upsurge in extreme weather events and associated natural disasters, which have increased by more than 400 per cent since 1970; loss of soil fertility and declining production of staple foods, which will make it extremely difficult to provide adequate food for all in the near future; and increased air pollution, which currently causes 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide.

(2) According to the scientific community, the outlook is not very promising; if we do not reduce our emissions, by the middle of the century the global temperature will have increased by 1.5 °C, the target set for the year 2100. This can result in consequences as dire as driving 122 million people into poverty by 2030 or displacing 200 million people by 2050. If nothing is done, between now and 2100, global warming could reach 5ºC, leading to the disappearance of millions of species and almost 75% of the world’s population.

(3) This phenomenon also affects education, one of the first sectors to be abandoned when disaster strikes, and it also has serious gender implications, with girls and women disproportionately affected by crises and emergencies. The most vulnerable populations, such as indigenous peoples, are also most directly affected by these impacts. We agree with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when it comes to affirming the essential role that education must play in the necessary individual and collective changes, we must moderate our behaviour and consumption patterns in order to save our planet. An equal, inclusive and high-quality education enables people to comprehend and respond to environmental issues, as well as to adapt to negative consequences and reduce their vulnerability.

(4) We are in the midst of an environmental emergency, and politicians do not appear to be taking seriously the most urgent crisis we face, the climate crisis.

(5) The unions affiliated to Education International fundamentally uphold the enormous power of education to save the planet from degradation, both social and environmental. On the one hand, in terms of adaptation, education helps people to better understand and respond to environmental issues and reduce vulnerability to their effects. Evidence suggests that if educational progress stagnates, the number of victims of natural disasters could increase by 20% over the next decade. However, universalising secondary education by 2030 would prevent 200,000 deaths from natural disasters over the coming twenty years. On the other hand, education is the best tool to teach the public to be aware of the causes and consequences of climate change and other environmental problems, and providing people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to seek solutions, change consumption patterns and transform society, thereby helping to change the unsustainable economic model that has led to the spiral of social and environmental destruction in which we currently find ourselves.

(6) We draw attention to the need to transform our educational systems in order to encourage more sustainable lifestyles. Climate change is a global challenge that not only has serious environmental consequences, but also a very high human cost and education is one of the best vehicles for tackling it.

(7) Therefore, we believe that defending the right to education also means helping to guarantee the universal right to live in a more sustainable and fairer world, within the limits of our planet.

(8) This commitment is also expressed in the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as virtually all of them are directly (SDG 11, SDG 12, SDG 13, SDG 14, SDG 15) or indirectly related to environmental and social sustainability, including SDG 4 on education.

(9) Education plays a key role in these much-needed individual and collective changes to our mentality, behaviour and lifestyles. Education can help people to understand, respond to, adapt to and reduce their vulnerability to environmental problems.

(10) Therefore, we invite everyone to do it together - “Defend education, sustain the world”.

(11) Congress instructs the Executive Board to encourage affiliates to:(i) Defend education, sustain the world;

(ii) Stand in full solidarity with all students striking or protesting against climate change; (iii) Oppose any reprisals against students taking action to fight climate change, such as detentions, exclusions. The rights to strike and protest are fundamental democratic rights for students and workers alike. To call on schools not to take action against students. We pledge to support student defence campaigns as necessary; and (iv) Pledge to support future student actions by approaching student representatives to offer trade union speakers, stewards and organisational support.