Invest in climate education to build a better workforce for a greener future

published 22 April 2021 updated 29 April 2021

Education International welcomes the Earth Day statement by the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation stressing that climate education and awareness raising are key to making a just transition to green economies that guarantee a “sustainable future for current and new generations”

Praising Earthday.org, Education International and the International Trade Union Confederation for stressing the importance of climate education on Earth Day, 22 April, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said that his organisation has called for urgent worldwide action on climate change, including the need to support climate education and awareness raising.

Ryder said that climate and environmental literacy can help create jobs, build a green consumer market and allow citizens to better engage with their governments about climate change.

He also pointed out that the transition to a carbon-neutral economy will require new skills, training, and qualifications. Many new jobs will emerge. Others will have to adapt. This makes climate education for the current and future workforce a priority that countries need to urgently address.

We need to prepare the youth to this changing world

“The effects of climate change will alter the structure of employment. New jobs and new job families will emerge, others will disappear or become unsustainable, and enterprises will have to find ways to organise work and production differently,” Ryder said. “We need to prepare the youth to this changing world. Environmental education can empower students to solve the climate crisis and develop the skills, optimism and resolve to lead the environmental movement of tomorrow.”

The ILO estimates that rising heat due to climate change could lead to the loss of 80 million jobs by 2030, with poor countries hit the worst. Taking ambitious action to tackle climate change can deliver more and better jobs, with a potential for 18 million net jobs by 2030, through measures in the energy sector.

Teachers must be trained to equip students with knowledge for a sustainable future

“We appreciate that the ILO Director-General and his organisation understand the vital importance of climate change education and is strongly supporting our efforts,” said Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards.

“We simply cannot wait,”, he stressed. “Teaching and education is all about the future, what our students want is a future that is sustainable. That is why teachers are so concerned about having the relevant curricula and tools for their students to reflect and acquire knowledge on how they can make a difference for the future. Governments must provide educators with the appropriate training, tools and financing.”

Just before Earth Day, Education International, during the Global Education Summit, launched the Teach for the Planet” campaign and Education International’s Manifesto on quality climate change education for all.

The upcoming UN climate conference COP26, to be hosted by the United Kingdom, will be an important time to reiterate the importance of climate literacy, because only the right educational tools will prepare the current and future workforce to meet the challenges of climate change.