Teach for the Planet: Asia-Pacific educators campaign for climate change education for all

published 12 October 2021 updated 12 October 2021

Educators and their unions from the Asia-Pacific region have urged governments to urgently prioritise the provision of quality climate change education. On 11 October, educators launched the Education International Asia-Pacific (EIAP) Region’s campaign, “Educators for Sustainable Development”, by calling for government support for teachers in their climate action initiatives.

The EIAP campaign was launched during a virtual two-day conference, with the theme of “Mobilising Educators for Climate Change Education”. The conference drew from the experiences of educators and unionists in the region, where climate education has yet to be prioritised in countries’ education agendas and climate action plans. This new launch is part of Education International’s global campaign, “Teach for the Planet”.

According to the 2021 Asia-Pacific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Progress Report, the region is not on track to meet any of the targets under the SDG on quality education by 2030. Nor is it moving in the right direction on climate action, unless substantive efforts are made to build resilience against disasters and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Education key to a just transition

EIAP Chief Regional Coordinator Anand Singh noted that “this is a timely moment to reflect and strategise on how best to mobilise educators and organise all partners and allies for climate action”.

The Chairperson of Education International’s Asia-Pacific Region, Masaki Okajima, officially launched the conference. “Climate change and environmental degradation pose significant challenges to all of us, and risks will be greater in the medium-to long-term,” he said. “However, if properly managed, climate change action can lead us to a better future.”

He also reiterated that “education is the key to promote the action to support a just transition and a more sustainable world”.

Ensuring future of humanity

Education International’s President, Susan Hopgood, emphasised that, “unlike the pandemic, it’s been decades since climate change first entered the mainstream conversation. We have grown accustomed to hearing or reading about it in the news”.

She went on to stress that “as teachers, education support personnel, and unionists, our task is more than just to teach the facts. It is to ensure that, in the face of looming catastrophes, there is even a future generation left to teach.”

She also explained that the conference’s main objective is to “explore the facets and challenges of mainstreaming quality universal education on the most serious existential threat facing humanity today”.

Hon. James Shaw, Minister of Climate Change of New Zealand, highlighted the fact that his government is about to start work with unions, non-government organisations, businesses, and local communities on the development of an emissions reduction plan. This plan will set the direction for climate action over the next 15 years in his country. New Zealand is one of the few countries globally to have declared a climate change emergency.

“As teachers, education support personnel, and unionists, our task is more than just to teach the facts. It is to ensure that, in the face of looming catastrophes, there is even a future generation left to teach.”

Susan Hopgood, Education International's President

Shigeru Aoyagi, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific, acknowledged that “education is the most powerful tool in preparing societies for the global challenges that climate change brings”. He reminded participants that his organisation is a partner of Education International’s and a key advocate for climate change education.

Fighting for rights and the environment

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), an organisation at the forefront of just transition, called for climate education now, and warned that “if we don't fight for investment in jobs, for rights, for social protection for our people, right alongside of the environment, the planet itself, then we don't have a future”.

High-level representatives of regional education unions and civil society organisations engaged in a panel discussion, “Climate change education: why is it fundamental to humanity?”.

Divided into breakout sessions, participants also addressed the following themes:

  1. Organising for climate justice.
  2. The power and know-how of ancestors in building the future of now.
  3. Building a better and greener future.
  4. Innovative and effective educational approaches of teaching CCE.

Preparing for COP26

The final session of the day was dedicated to “The road to COP26 and beyond” and to actions educators in Asia-Pacific can undertake, especially in the lead-up to the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in November.

The President of NZEI Te Riu Roa/New Zealand, Liam Rutherford, introduced the statement, “Education International Asia-Pacific Unions Call for Quality Climate Change Education for All”.

This statement will be discussed and submitted for adoption in a dedicated session during the conference’s next and last day.

You can follow the EIAP conference, “Mobilising Educators for Climate Change Education”, here.