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Nature Worthiness: Generational Leadership for Ensuring Equity and Climate Justice for All Life on Earth

Written by Hafiz Jawad Sohail, Global Schools Project Officer

At the core of its mission, the Global Schools Program (GSP) commits to 'Education for a Better World' and demonstrates exceptional outreach to hundreds of educational communities at grassroots levels for the full implementation of sustainable development. The GSP offers capacity building and resources as a response to future uncertainties facing people, nature, and our planet. This is especially timely as the world engages in a midpoint review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) facilitated by the United Nations (UN) system, in conjunction with historic developments taking place at the Summit of the Future in the form of Declaration on Future Generations.

The state of progress of the Sustainable Development agenda is still bottlenecked after halfway of its term completion and the world is far away from meeting their own expectations of preparing to manage the challenges our planet is facing now, let alone the future generations and their capabilities to meet the needs of their challenging times full of climate crisis and biodiversity failures, as it has been stated by the UN Secretary-General in the Our Common Agenda report for a renewal of trust and solidarity at all levels and a fundamental rethink of our political, economic and social systems so that they deliver more fairly and effectively for everyone. We cannot simply transition to a greener future, unless we handover the same biodiverse environment to our next generations in the same way it was passed onto us by our predecessors.

For this, the importance of youth tackling climate challenges from their perspectives and the role of education should be promoted to non-formal pathways, with a focus on real-world issues and sustainability education as lifelong learning and green skills development. Innovative ways like action-based learning outside the classroom. Brain development practices, promoting scientific literacy to grasp the boundaries of the planet, and creating a sense of agency, hopefulness might deliver a fortune of generational prosperity and life systems sustainability. An additional year of education solely focusing on Earth Systems Functioning and natural processes operationalities would encourage thoughtfulness and leadership in the next generations, and to protect natural assets for the future generations to come, in a trustworthy and equitable way.

Several countries highlighted the active role of youth in formulating and implementing climate policies. Some are developing specific programs to engage youth in environmental and climate issues. The inclusion of youth in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) reflects a global recognition of the importance of involving them, not only as beneficiaries of climate education but also as active participants in the policy formulation process. This approach is directly aligned with the SDGs, especially SDG 13 Climate Action, which emphasizes the need for education, awareness, and human capacity building to solve climate-related issues.

The ACE Action Plan highlights the inclusion of climate education in NDCs submitted to the UNFCCC, showcasing efforts across various regions. In Africa, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Gambia are integrating climate change education into their curricula, with Zimbabwe and Cameroon focusing on curricular integration, and Gambia emphasizing teacher training. In Europe, North Macedonia is engaging youth in climate policy through virtual consultations and new mechanisms, while the region prioritizes curricular integration, teacher training, youth empowerment, and active youth participation. Asian countries prioritize curricular integration and research and development in climate education. Oceania emphasizes educational programs, advocacy, and curriculum assessment and revision. Latin America and the Caribbean lead with the highest number of NDCs focusing on climate education, with countries like Georgia and Saint Lucia including youth and people with disabilities, the Dominican Republic implementing a national strategy for climate-resilient development, and Paraguay incorporating climate change into educational platforms for indigenous peoples. Chile, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic have set clear metrics and goals for climate education by 2030, highlighting their commitment to long-term planning and impact. Overall, these efforts reflect a global commitment to enhancing climate education through curricular integration, public awareness, teacher training, and inclusion of specific groups.

In addition, when analyzing the Action for Climate Environment (ACE) Plan, particularly the inclusion of climate education in the NDCs submissions by the countries to the UNFCCC secretariat there are many clear examples on the importance of taking action for the environment. African countries prioritize curricular integration and youth engagement, with a strong emphasis on teacher training. For instance, while Zimbabwe and Cameroon highlight the integration of climate issues into school curricula, and Gambia focuses on teacher training. Following these same steps is Europe, where countries have been focusing on curricular integration, teacher preparation, youth empowerment, and active youth participation in climate issues. Particulary, The Republic of North Macedonia is engaging youth meaningfully in climate policy-making through virtual consultations and new mechanisms. 

On the other hand, Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest number of NDCs with climate education strategies, accounting for half of the mapped NDCs.The region focuses on public awareness, curricular integration, teacher training, and inclusion of specific groups such as indigenous peoples and individuals with disabilities. Some examples of their initiatives include, the development of a public education framework  for climate-resilient agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines or incorporation of climate change aspects into educational platforms and creating educational projects for indigenous peoples in Paraguay. While Chile, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic are recognized for their forward-looking approach in setting clear metrics and goals for climate education by 2030, highlighting their commitment to long-term planning and impact. Lastly, Asian countries prioritize curricular integration and research and development in climate education and the ones in Oceania emphasize educational programs, advocacy, curriculum assessment, and revision for climate education. 

But why these examples are so relevant? According to UNEP, human activities have significantly altered 75 percent of the Earth's land surface. 

This disruptions among many others, not only affects life above ground but also extends into the earth's core, impacting global climatic changes and environmental sustainability. The implications of these environmental crises extend far beyond human consequences. If we want to achieve the SDGs agenda in realistic manners, the most urgent action would be to call to stop the human consumption of the Earth’s natural land surface where integrity of environmental sustainability is anchored above and below the three-dimensional body of the living Earth. Perhaps, we need to look back to see where we missed the upright culture and from when our development pathways started to compromise the human wellbeing and prosperity of people, planet and nature.

As we mark the celebration of World Environment Day 2024, we hope that our actions and ambitions remain ‘the same.’ The earth is changing at a rate that requires our actions to be more urgent than before, and we need to empower youth to champion climate action, innovate solutions, and cultivate a resilient generation of proactive citizens. Let’s make every day Earth Day and lead the charge for a sustainable future.

Together, let’s change our discourse for a better world!

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