Climate literacy, helping students make informed choices for the future

published 27 April 2021 updated 2 July 2021

The world’s educators remain committed to climate education and to supporting policies and students in creating ambitious plans for the future on this critical issue.

Haldis Holst, Education International Deputy General Secretary, reaffirmed the commitment of educators to climate education at a recent panel discussion on climate literacy. She was joined on the panel by Italian Education Minister Patrizio Bianchi and Michael Regan, Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The panel discussion organised, by Earthday.org, was held virtually on 22 April.

Preparing students to contribute

“A climate literate student would be a student who, through education, would have acquired knowledge, would have been introduced to what we know, what we can prove, but also what opinions are out there,” Holst explained.

Those teaching climate education should be able to prepare students to develop their own attitudes, skills, and abilities to contribute in the way they feel is best for them. This may be as an activist, a politician, or in their choice of livelihood – making informed choices that students feel are good for their future and the world they want to live in.

“Because education is about preparing for the future and we cannot prepare children for the future without addressing change now, we have to expose them to the knowledge and challenges, and to try to support them in making the right choices,” she argued.

Issues of inequality and sustainability

In accordance with the principles of methodology and pedagogy, she advised starting climate education with what is known, what is local; having “the teachers and the children find together the right entrance points”.

Holst added that “the key is to make it relevant for the students you are working with. And then you build on that and you get the more general context and can get into the larger question: not just climate change, but what kind of impact does climate change have on inequality and on the broader issue of sustainability.”

Importance of US in climate community

On the recent involvement of the US in international summits on climate change, Italian Education Minister Patrizio Bianchi expressed his satisfaction that the “United States decided to be, once again, part of the community for climate”.

He stressed that It was not possible to have an effective global community for better climate, better environment, without the involvement of the US.

The Italian government is putting climate literacy at the centre of its discussions in international for a, such as meetings of the G20, the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, and with education ministries.

Connecting experiences in a new vision of the global future

Noting that the role of students is crucial, he said “students have not only to offer a vision of the future, but also a practice of the present”, and stressed that environmental issues are crucial for a sustainable future.

“It is not enough to recognise that there is an increasing problem of disparities around the world, of inequalities in the world. We must reconnect all these issues: climate change is also an inequality issue. Otherwise, it remains a discussion among experts. It is necessary to connect all the experiences in a new vision of the global future,” Bianchi concluded.

Developing a sense of responsibility to care for the planet

Michael Regan, Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, outlined a vision of climate literacy. It would mean that “every child in every school in America has the tools and resources in the classroom to gather an understanding of the natural world, make a connection between our health and a healthy environment, and develop a sense of responsibility to care for the planet”, he concluded.


On 21 April, Education International launched its Teach For The Planet campaign aiming to ensure that climate education, based on science and with a civic action focus, becomes as fundamental as teaching reading and writing. The campaign will drive global mobilisation for quality climate education leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021.