Education in Emergencies and the Climate Crisis at HNPW 2024 

The climate crisis is an education crisis. 

On 6 May, the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies (EiE Hub) and Global Partnership for Education (GPE) co-hosted a session at the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW) on Empowering futures: Opportunities for strengthened evidence and collaboration at the intersection between the climate crisis and education

“When Education Cannot Wait started operating, the crises we were responding to were mostly caused by conflict,” said Maarten Barends, Chief of Humanitarian Liaison and External Relations at Education Cannot Wait (ECW). “But this is shifting. More and more children and youth are now affected by climate change – 62 million, and that number is rising.” 

Education systems are both severely impacted by environmental and climate crises and have a critical role to play in securing a sustainable future for all. Among other things, floods, drought, increased incidence of diseases and excessive temperatures can lead to school closures, student absenteeism, weaker physical and cognitive development, compounding the existing learning crisis. As a result, the humanitarian community has long found itself at the forefront of addressing the consequences of climate shocks on children’s and youth’s learning to ensure educational continuity in safe learning environments. This includes essential, lifesaving education support. 

“(New research shows) there is a clear lack of information on education and climate change, which has led donors to allocate insufficient climate funding to education,” said Michel Anglade, Director, Geneva Advocacy Office, Save the Children. “This is also the case for other key sectors, including child protection and health.” 

“For children & young people to take up climate activism and leadership, safe learning environments with quality education and climate-smart learning are essential,” said Carolina Earle, GPE Youth Leader. 

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. Education is also essential to provide people with the knowledge and tools needed to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis, addressing the root causes and risks it poses to lives, livelihoods and well-being.   

“We need to look at risks to education in a holistic picture,” said Jeanette Elsworth, Chief, Communication, Advocacy and Knowledge Management Section, UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction. “We know we have cascading risks, we know that climate change is exacerbating such risks, so we need an approach that looks at them all together.” 

This session featured insights from the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies’ flagship report on Leveraging Education in Emergencies for Climate Action, GPE and Save the Children’s financing climate-smart education evidence review and costing framework, ECW’s background study on the toll of climate induced shocks on education for crisis-affected children and the Global Education Cluster’s (GEC) preparedness and rapid response toolkits.  

“We recognize the role of education in providing psychological & social support, as it provides stability to those affected,” said Veronica Nzioki, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations in Geneva. “Education is part of the 2030 vision for Kenya’s development.” 

“Looking back at major SDC responses, such as following the floods in Pakistan, and Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, much of it has been about rebuilding schools,” said Dominik Stillhart, Deputy Director, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Head of Swiss Humanitarian Aid. “Indeed, there’s an important intersection between climate and education.” 

The question and answer segment saw interventions from participants including Jesuit Refugee Service, Plan International, the Global Education Cluster, IFRC and the Aga Khan Foundation. The session was moderated by Raphaëlle Martinez, Head of Education Policy and Learning at GPE.