Education in Emergencies & Climate Crisis
Education for displaced and crisis-affected children and youth is crucial to promote climate action. Education helps people address the root causes and impacts of the climate crisis, empowering them with the knowledge, competencies and skills needed to adapt and innovate to take action, transform economies, and improve health, well-being and security. However, the right to education – and the realisation of this potential of education for climate action – is denied to 224 million children and youth due to armed conflict, forced displacement, protracted crises, and increasingly, climate-induced disasters.
The climate crisis is an education crisis. Recurring, intensifying and multiplying climate-induced hazards – floods, droughts, fires, extreme heat – are heightening the already significant challenges in providing safe and continuous education (see box 1). Those disproportionately affected are the most marginalised, including children and youth affected by conflict and disasters, especially girls, minority groups, refugees and displaced children, and children with disabilities. The EiE sector is critical to reaching the most marginalised children and youth.
The Education in Emergencies (EiE) sector is implementing critical climate action. In crises, the EiE community has long worked to address the consequences of climate shocks on children’s and youth’s learning to ensure educational continuity in safe learning environments. This includes essential education support that can save lives. The EiE community works in close collaboration with the child protection sector and is strengthening joined-up approaches with food, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and other sectors. It is helping education actors – including Ministries of Education, local actors, teachers and civil society – to prepare and reduce risks, build resilience and deliver finance quickly. Anticipatory action before shocks is gaining momentum. Greater investments in these areas will yield a higher return for climate action and help to build resilient and climate-smart education systems.
The EiE sector is on the pulse of climate-related policy developments. In partnership with other sectors and across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, the EiE community is integrating climate change, disaster and environmental concerns into EiE policy and strategy at various levels. EiE policy and programming utilises the Comprehensive School Safety Framework to establish safer school facilities, school safety and educational continuity management, as well as risk reduction and resilience education; and the INEE Minimum Standards: Preparedness, Response, Recovery to establish learning environments that are secure and safe, and promote the protection and psychosocial well-being of learners and teachers.
The scale and complexity of climate-related emergencies have put renewed emphasis on the importance of preparedness, anticipatory action, and risk reduction measures in building crisis-sensitive systems. Multi-hazard risk reduction, emergency preparedness and contingency planning are well-established components of EiE, and anticipatory action and climate change adaptation are growing in importance. In addition, there exists significant work on ongoing risk assessment at school, subnational and national levels that is critical for locally-led adaptation.
There already exist well-established EiE coordination mechanisms for humanitarian crises that are a strong foundation for climate action. Bringing together national and international actors, they allow for faster, more coherent, and synergistic action to ensure the right to education for crisis-affected and displaced children and youth. At the country level, Education Clusters and Refugee Education Working Groups are working to strengthen the nexus by engaging in joint needs assessment and planning, aligning humanitarian response plans with education sector plans, and building collaborative capacity between clusters/refugee education working groups, Ministries of Education and local education groups. However, more can be done to strengthen coordinating mechansims’ collaboration across the nexus, including with those that work on cross-cutting topics, such as the environment, climate and DRR.
Children and youth are leaders and change agents in addressing climate change in many places around the world, including in their schools and communities. However, children and youth in crisis contexts are not yet systematically included in climate policy discussions and actions at national and global level. More can be done to ensure children and youth are at the center of EiE interventions, and that their right to participate in and influence education and climate policy decision-making is supported. Further, there is a need for safe spaces where they can play, learn, be protected and be listened to throughout an emergency, and where they can access safe, participatory, and inclusive engagement opportunities to contribute to local DRR, preparedness, anticipatory action, and climate and environmental action.
Increased financing for the EiE sector is needed. As countries work to build climate-smart education systems, achieve quality education for all, and realise the right of every child to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, the role and contribution of the EiE sector should be recognised in global and national discussions, adaptation plans, and financing. Member States, donors and policy makers across the nexus should scale up finance for EiE, which is chronically underfunded. This includes increasing the proportion of predictable multi-year funding for EiE, and allocating funding to multi-hazard risk reduction, preparedness and anticipatory action, as well as climate change adaptation and mitigation, in EiE interventions. It also requires increased climate finance allocated to education, including in crisis contexts.
Education in Emergencies (EiE) represents key support for climate change adaptation and mitigation, even as the rapidly intensifying climate emergency threatens children’s rights to education globally. Today, nearly half of all children – 1 billion – live in countries at extremely high risk of suffering the impacts of climate change, most of which are also faced with fragile contexts.1 These children and young people are exposed to multiple climate-related hazards and shocks, such as water scarcity, heat waves, forest fires, tropical storms, air pollution and flooding, and high vulnerability due to conflict. Furthermore, extreme weather events have become an increasing factor in people’s displacement in the last decade.2 This increases the urgency of addressing the effects of climate change on education, especially in emergencies.
Education can help increase countries’ adaptation to the negative effects of climate change.3 By educating children and young people at risk or already affected by crises, EiE helps them develop skills that increase their resilience. Education on environmental issues and climate change in schools creates awareness and promotes more sustainable living. Vocational training and technical education can prepare young people for green jobs. And crisis-sensitive planning and disaster risk management can increase education systems’ hardiness to climate shocks.
What We Know
Children and young people in emergencies empowered through education are often more prepared for disasters, and when confronted with climate shocks are more resilient in response and recovery.
Quality inclusive education in high-climate-risk areas and after disasters can teach children and young people the necessary skills to manage risks and respond to future climate challenges. Through school-wide approaches to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), children and young people can increase their awareness, preparedness, and adaptation to climate shocks and disasters.
Educating children and young people in emergency settings can help them escape the harshest impacts of climate change.
Children and young people in countries and settings that are not primarily responsible for the largest carbon emissions will likely face the most drastic consequences of the climate emergency. Access to quality, inclusive and safe education can provide them with knowledge and skills to improve their future learning opportunities and economic prospects, helping them escape the impacts of climate change on their lives and livelihoods. It can also serve to improve understanding of climate injustice.
Education in emergencies can enable children and young people to be part of climate change solutions.
Education can help children and young people understand and address the impacts of the climate crisis, equipping them with the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes needed to act as agents of change. They can play a crucial role in advocacy and mobilisation, the development of solutions, and promotion of environmentally sustainable living.
Empowering children, in particular girls, through education can improve climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Gender-responsive education can transform the harmful gender norms that make girls and young women more vulnerable to the climate emergency and help them develop the skills they need to thrive. It can promote women’s participation in higher education, labour and politics, further enabling them to address climate change challenges.
Increase funding and access to quality education for at-risk children and young people, especially girls.
Help reduce children and young people’s vulnerability to climate shocks by increasing funding to education. Close the gender equity gap, provide quality EiE, and improve education systems’ resilience. It is vital to transform and speed up the delivery of EiE to make sure that no one is left behind.
Increase education systems’ resilience by improving preparedness and anticipatory action through multi-hazard risk-informed approaches.
This involves investing in multi-sectoral, crisis-sensitive and risk-informed planning and programming in education. Doing so supports anticipatory action, in consultation with children, teachers and parents themselves. It also encourages building infrastructure resilient to disasters and solutions that increase access, such as alternative learning modalities. Additionally, it improves equity.
Mainstream Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and environmental education in school curricula to address climate change challenges.
Include DDR knowledge in curricula and put into action disaster preparedness and mitigation programmes in schools. Curricula should also improve learning and skills on biodiversity, environmental protection, climate change and sustainable development.
Support children and young people’s participation in climate policy decision-making processes.
Recognizing children and young people as equal stakeholders in addressing the climate emergency, and with education as a platform, climate policy should involve young people in all local, national, regional and international climate negotiations and decisions.
Strengthen collaboration on knowledge, coordination, and programming across sectors and countries.
Silos must be broken down between sectors and countries to better address climate-related challenges. New and more meaningful collaboration between EiE and partners can serve as a catalyst for climate change solutions, including addressing climate injustice. A starting point could be a collective effort to identify, compile and share knowledge about EiE and the climate emergency.
GET THE FACTS
Climate risk is making it harder for children to live, learn and thrive
Save the Children’s Born into a Climate Crisis report revealed that children born today experience more extreme weather events than their grandparents4
- Compared to a person born in 1960, a child born in 2020 will experience on average 2 times as many wildfires, 2.8 times the exposure to crop failure, 2.6 times as many drought events, 2.8 times as many river floods, and 6.8 times more heatwaves across their lifetimes.
UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index shows that children in fragile contexts are more likely to be impacted by the climate emergency5
- 1 billion children –nearly half of the world’s kids– live in countries at extremely high-risk of exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
- 29 out of the 33 extremely high-risk countries are also fragile contexts.
One quarter (8 out of 33) of extremely high-risk countries have more than 5% of the population displaced.
Climate-related hazards and shocks are making it harder for children to learn and thrive
- In 2020, 9.8 million out of the 30.1 million new weather-related internal displacements were children.6
- Each year, 75 million children and young people have their education disrupted by the climate crisis.7
- By 2025, 12.5 million girls in low- and lower-middle-income countries could be prevented from completing their education each year due to climate-related events.8
*The members of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies contributed their knowledge and expertise to this document. Contact us.
- UNICEF (2021). The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index.
- IDMC (2020) Understanding the climate change-displacement-education nexus for building resilient and equitable education systems
- Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (2021). Global Report on Internal Displacement 2021
- Save the Children (2021a). Born into the Climate Crisis: Why we must act now to secure children’s rights.
- UNICEF (2021). The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis.
- Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (2021). Global Report on Internal Displacement 2021
- Theirworld (2018). Safe School: The Hidden Crisis – A framework for action to deliver Safe, Non-violent, Inclusive and Effective Learning Environments
- Malala Fund (2021). A greener, fairer future: Why leaders need to invest in climate and girls’ education
- Christina Kwauk and Amanda Braga. Brookings (2017). 3 ways to link girls’ education actors to climate action (Blog)
- Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) (2022). Disaster Risk Reduction Collection
- Save the Children (2021b). Build Forward Better: How the Global Community must act now to secure children’s learning in crises.
- Save the Children (2021c). Walking into the Eye of the Storm: How the climate crisis is driving child migration and displacement
- UNICEF UK (2021). Futures at Risk: Protecting the Rights of Children on the Move in a Changing Climate.
- UNICEF (2019). It is getting hot: Call for education systems to respond to the climate crisis.