By Yasmine Sherif
NEW YORK, Aug 12 2023 (IPS)
To save our people and our planet from the life-threatening risks of the climate crisis, we must invest in the education of today’s youth. They will be the climate activists, climate scientists, climate innovators, game-changers and leaders of the 21st century green economy.
On International Youth Day, ECW and our global partners urge world leaders in the public and private sectors to ensure today’s youth have the green skills they need to save our planet. The climate-change challenges and the detrimental impact are enormous – severely affecting the planet, as well as basic services and our very survival.
According to the recent position paper by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO): “Addressing the climate, environment, and biodiversity crises in and through girls’ education”, the climate crisis is impacting the education of 40 million children every year. “Education is an assumed, but hugely undervalued, component of responses to climate change impacts, and efforts to mitigate and adapt to them. It is essential for reducing vulnerability, improving communities’ resilience and adaptive capacity, identifying innovations, and for empowering individuals to be part of the solution to climate and environmental change,” states the position paper.
Recent global estimates from Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies & protracted crises – indicate that the number of crisis-impacted children who urgently need education support has spiked by as much as 25 million over the past year.
According to the new ECW Global Estimate Study: “Climate change interacts with underlying crisis drivers to increase crisis severity and worsen education outcomes. For example, droughts in East Africa deplete livelihoods, boost displacement, and undermine food security, worsening access to education and learning and accelerating protection needs.”
As we ramp up efforts to deliver on the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development Goals at this year’s SDG Summit and Climate Talks (COP28), we must ensure that quality education, as a critical response to climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience – especially for children and adolescents caught in emergencies – is inserted into the climate agenda, funding decisions and global policy. Because, climate change is not a stand-alone sector. It impedes and prevents the education of 224 million children and youth today, and their ability to survive and protect our planet tomorrow.
As we build toward COP28, ECW will work closely with the Green Climate Fund, Global Environment Facility, Adaptation Fund and other multilateral and bilateral funds – along with the private sector – to develop solution-oriented and actionable commitments to ensure that education in emergencies both responds to immediate crises, while also equipping communities with the knowledge and skills they need to adapt, mitigate, and build resilience in the face of an uncertain future.
For today’s youth, this means ensuring they receive a quality education in some of the highest-risk climate disaster areas on the globe. It also means to empower them with the knowledge and skills they need to develop, access and advance the green economy, and have the capacity to lead and make sustainable decisions for their communities and countries.
Youth are the human power of a green economy and of climate action and climate resilience. Financial investments in climate change mean financial investments in the education of 224 million children and adolescents. Empowered with an education, they will save their communities, their countries and our planet. If not them, who? Without them, how?
IPS UN Bureau
International Youth Day Statement by ECW Executive Director Yasmine Sherif