The Doha Work Programme: Climate change education at COP 18

COP 18 Side Event: Child Centred Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation. COP 18 Side Event: Child Centred Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation. © UNICEF UK/2012

On Monday, I spoke at an event here at COP 18 in Doha, launching a new initiative on Article 6, a core part of the UN climate framework that supports the provision of education, training and public awareness on climate change. COP 18 has agreed on the Doha Work Programme; a multi year education and public awareness programme aiming to improve knowledge and skills on climate change. UNICEF will be helping to deliver this programme around education amongst children.

When it comes to helping ensure that children are able to cope in a changing climate, education is essential. Climate change education for children can be an important adaptation strategy, helping contribute to positive behaviour change.  For example, teaching children at school what to do when a natural disaster strikes – such as what to do to be prepared and how to evacuate – is essential to ensure that they can cope with the increasing onset of natural hazards due to climate change.

Education on climate change amongst children can also reap endless co-benefits. For example, when you educate children about climate change or about adaptation skills, they can often pass this learning on to their friends and peers. Similarly, children can also educate their parents and elders – encouraging them to take action on climate change or know what to do when natural disasters strike. Our publication “Taking Stock”, has some fantastic examples of how children educated on skills to cope with climate change have been able to teach adults in the community what to do when an extreme weather event hits.

Educating children is an important first step in tackling climate change, representing a long term investment in a whole generation. Children will share the lessons they learn with their peers and keep the learnings with them for a whole lifetime. This is exactly the kind of long term behaviour change that is needed for action on climate change.

At the launch on Monday, I spoke about the importance of Education for educating children and their peers, but also about education as a vital way to engage children in dealing with climate change and understanding the world around them. We also had the chance to interact with youth delegates to hear their views on how young people can be included in shaping education policies and contribute to implementing education programmes; vital if we are to ensure children can contribute to action in the changing climate.

The renewal of Article 6 and creation of the Doha Work Programme is a great, underpublicised achievement of COP 18. By agreeing education and public awareness as core to the global framework on climate change, governments gave a strong signal and set high ambition that children and future generations are central to the fight against climate change.

Once the Doha talks are over, UNICEF will be turning its attention to the implementation of such strong ambition around education, helping make the rhetoric of Article 6 a reality, and ensuring that children are at the heart of action on climate change.

Jazmin Burgess is UNICEF UK’s climate change policy officer. She is currently attending the COP 18 talks in Doha.

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