COP28: young activists gear up for 'mock education ministers summit' to demand quality climate education

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The UK's delegates want government to include a set number of hours dedicated to climate education in the national curriculum

Hundreds of young people will be converging on the internet this weekend for a slightly different reason than usual - to demand education ministers across the globe make quality climate education an urgent priority.

More than 250 young people representing 80 countries are set to take part in the first-ever mock education ministers summit, beginning on Saturday (12 August). The summit is organised by Mock COP, and the youth-led organisation hopes to replicate its 2020 summit's success, which saw it made an official youth partner at COP26 - the United Nations' climate change conference.

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The end result of the summit will be a unified statement from the youth delegates on climate education - they will define what they feel a quality climate education is, some metrics for measuring it, and issue a clear calls to action for governments. This will be presented at COP28 in Dubai later this year.

One of the UK delegates, 28-year-old Beth Rice, told NationalWorld climate education in the UK was good compared to some other countries, but it was very much "siloed into geography and science".

UK delegate Beth Rice (Photo: Supplied)UK delegate Beth Rice (Photo: Supplied)
UK delegate Beth Rice (Photo: Supplied) | Supplied

While she had taken science and geography GCSEs, not everyone did. "Other people in my school who didn't want to take triple science - triple science is I guess something you find more in private schools... they've had a different experience of climate education."

The UK delegates were pushing for a more "holistic" approach, Ms Rice said, where climate change was woven into all subjects, and students were taught in a solutions-based way. Their specific request to the UK government was to adopt Italy's approach, and include a set number of hours dedicated to climate education in the national curriculum.

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Ms Rice said that there had been some progress in the area, and some good initiatives were in the works - like plans to build a national education nature park, to introduce a natural history GCSE, and initiatives targeted at making schools greener.

"None of them seem to be on target," she said. "They set out a goal, but they don't say how they're going to get there." One thing the delegates believed could help was to set goals around training enough teachers to make sure they were able to actually give that education in schools, she said.

Walter Oseigwa, 24, Uganda's delegate for the Mock Education Minister's Summit (Photo: Supplied)Walter Oseigwa, 24, Uganda's delegate for the Mock Education Minister's Summit (Photo: Supplied)
Walter Oseigwa, 24, Uganda's delegate for the Mock Education Minister's Summit (Photo: Supplied) | Supplied

Ms Rice said it was particularly important to have robust climate education in the UK because it had a climate footprint that stretched back through history - "probably one of the worst in the world".

"Young people [also] need to understand the UK's historic climate impact... including on the global south," she added. "It's also about connecting people to the injustices of climate change."

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The UK was not yet suffering climate-induced weather effects as severely as some other countries - like Southern Europe and North Africa which endured record-breakingly hot back-to-back heatwaves last month, or last year's Pakistan floods which killed 1,700 people and saw 10% of the entire country inundated - but our greenhouse gas emissions were having an impact on them.

Education was vital to making sure people were making the connection, Ms Rice said. "The signs are there, but people aren't seeing them. It's the psychological distance, it's someone in a country thousands of kilometres away. I can live my life without even thinking about them... and how my actions have impacted them."

Climate change is still having a somewhat more subtle impact at home. There was last year when the UK hit 40C for the first time in recorded history, and the number of elderly people who died on that day spiked. Scientists have warned summers like this could become the new normal without urgent climate action.

"It's very important in the UK that we acknowledge the impact that we're having on the world, and work to not only improve our own country... but for the impact that will have on everybody else."

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The two-day virtual summit will run throughout the weekend, and will also feature talks and panel discussions from education and environmental activists. Some sessions will be available for the public to watch - and will be broadcast live on Mock COP’s Youtube.

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