Leveraging Education for Climate Action: A Breakfast Dialogue

On 14 March 2024, Switzerland, together with the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies (EiE Hub), UNESCO and UNICEF, hosted a breakfast meeting to present the EiE Hub’s latest flagship report, Leveraging Education in Emergencies for Climate Action, at the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations in New York.

Education remains underfunded and underprioritised in emergency situations, and largely disconnected from climate and disaster preparedness funding – despite the disproportionate impact of climate change on children, on top of other crises they experience. The increasing numbers of children affected, including displaced children, makes it ever more difficult to meet their diverse needs. With representatives of a dozen governments and a number of prominent International Organisations present, this meeting was an opportunity to assess this situation and exchange ideas about overcoming it.

Following welcome remarks from Rahel Pema, Minister, Head of Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Affairs of the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations, and an introduction from Maria Begoña Lasagabaster, UNESCO Director of the Division for Gender Equality, the main findings and recommendations of the flagship report were presented by EiE Hub Coordinator Petra Heusser.

“The impact of climate change on education in humanitarian settings is often overlooked,” said Heusser, “despite the billion children currently living in vulnerable contexts representing half of the world’s children.” She reiterated that predictable, multi-year funding is needed from funding bodies, including for disaster risk reduction and anticipatory action. Climate finance must reach children and youth in need of education, including in humanitarian settings.

Emphasising the point, Michael Nabieu, a youth leader from Sierra Leone, recounted how children and young people in his country and others have seen climate disasters lead to displacement, impeded access to education, and insecurity in communities. He and his peers are leading voluntary action, and are working with the Ministry of Education in Sierra Leone to improve climate education. But they need support.

“Children and adolescents in emergency contexts are living at the frontline of the climate crisis,” said Raakhi Williams, Chief, Strategy and Planning, Education Cannot Wait (ECW). “And yet, available funding is vastly outstripped by growing needs. This excellent report provides us with hope – it sets out concrete, innovative and emerging solutions. At ECW we are excited to play our part by launching two new anticipatory action pilots this year to support education actors ‘get ahead’ of climate-related disasters, and to share their learning with the sector.”

Interventions from the floor acknowledged this reality. They also proposed a number of ways forward, and promising initiatives being undertaken globally.

In closing, Ingrid Sanchez Tapia, Global Lead – Climate Change and Education Senior Education Adviser – Climate at UNICEF, noted some further examples of good practice, and highlighted the importance of the upcoming COP29.

“We should collectively use COP29 as a space for advocacy, as we did with COP28,” she said. “We already have a commitment from member states to double climate adaptation financing by 2025. Building on this, we need to work together to ensure education is embedded across all relevant negotiation streams at COP29, beyond Action for Climate Empowerment, and included as a key focus in discussions to agree a new collective quantified goal on climate finance, and to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund.”