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WEEC session sheds light on integrating sustainability into education

WEEC session sheds light on integrating sustainability into education
30 Jan 2024 08:26

SARA ALZAABI (ABU DHABI)

On the opening day of the World Environmental Education Congress 2024 (WEEC) on Monday, a prestigious gathering of experts and leaders participated in a plenary session titled “The Triple Planetary Crisis: Aligning EE and ESD”. The session, held in Hall 2 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) and moderated by Abdul Majed Haddad, Deputy Regional Director at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), featured a distinguished panel who discussed the role of integrating sustainability and environmental consciousness into education.

Notable panellists included H.E. Dr. Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment; Lorenzo Fioramonti, Former Education Minister in Italy; H.E. Mamo Boru Mamo, Director General of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) in Kenya; and Ginger Potter, a Senior Education Specialist from the US’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

UAE’s Government-Led Environmental Education and Sustainability

In a session focused on national priorities, Dr. Al Shamsi emphasised the government’s crucial role in integrating environmental education and sustainable development into the national agenda.

Dr. Al Shamsi underscored the transformative power of education, emphasising its ability to resonate with every household and family, highlighting the need for a reciprocal relationship within society to ensure widespread impact.
In seamlessly integrating sustainability education into the curriculum, the UAE employs a comprehensive framework, emphasising knowledge, skills, and values. Dr. Al Shamsi applauded the country’s pioneering initiatives, including Youth Climate Champions at COP28 and the Green Education Hub, focusing on a cross-curricular framework, capacity building for educators, green schools, and green communities.

Dr. Al Shamsi emphasised grassroots involvement to ensure a lasting impact, highlighting the UAE’s dedication to prioritising environmental education and sustainable development. The integration of these principles into education aims to cultivate future leaders capable of driving positive change for a sustainable world.

Environmental Education and Global Commitment  Potter delivered valuable insights on leadership, responsibility, and the global commitment essential for sustainable change. Potter underscored the critical role of leaders in fostering positive transformations, emphasising the inherent human responsibility for positive change and the imperative for governments and civil society to unite for the sake of future generations.

Additionally, as an advocate for environmental education, Potter raised concerns about the lack of mandates for teaching environmental topics in approximately half of US states. She called for a comprehensive overhaul and reauthorisation of legislation, emphasising the pivotal role of the EPA and stressing the need for a well-funded approach to ensure widespread understanding and personal responsibility for the planet’s well-being.

Potter framed education as a national security issue, highlighting its crucial role in shaping perspectives and instilling environmental awareness. She asserted that education is key to fostering a deeper understanding, instilling care for the environment, and providing individuals with the necessary tools to contribute to its protection. Encouraging engagement beyond the education sector, Potter emphasised the importance of conveying how education plays a pivotal role at both individual and societal levels.

Revolutionising Education: Sustainable Development in Italy Fioramonti, who is also Full Professor at the University of Surrey (UK), achieved global acclaim for his transformative initiatives in Italy’s education system. In response to students questioning the purpose of education during youth-led climate strikes, Fioramonti made history in 2019 by mandating sustainable development education in all schools, championing a cross-cutting approach to integrate sustainability across subjects.

Recognising these challenges, Fioramonti encouraged teachers to join students in a journey of learning and practical solutions, envisioning education as a powerful tool to shape a sustainable future in alignment with national environmental management principles. Stressing the economic and practical significance of investing in environmental education, he highlighted its profound impact on reshaping children’s perspectives, surpassing traditional environmental investments like solar panels.

Stressing the immediate impact of investing in green education, Fioramonti underscored the strong economic argument and empowerment of overlooked sectors, especially through the education of girls. Advocating for a hands-on approach to practical environmental education, he expressed the urgency to inspire change within the next few years amid pressing environmental challenges.

Environmental Education and Sustainability in KenyaIn his address, Mamo showcased his distinguished leadership in environmental conservation, underlining the duty and collective responsibility for environmental quality as emphasised in Kenya’s constitution.

He pointed out legislative milestones, including the 2017 single-use plastic ban, and advocated for comprehensive environmental education from kindergarten to university to instil a culture of responsibility, shaping Kenya’s environmental future.

In a compelling address, Mamo highlighted the imperative of equipping students with skills for behavioural change toward a sustainable future, highlighting Kenya’s ongoing efforts in engaging students and encouraging a whole-school approach for active participation in preserving the planet.

Addressing the pressing environmental crisis, Mamo stressed the need for a centralised approach involving government, the private sector, and stakeholders, calling for a fundamental reorientation of the education system to align with sustainability principles.

He affirmed sustainability as an imperative mandate, urging youth involvement and expressing gratitude for their potential contributions to building a sustainable future. Mamo concluded by encouraging sustained commitment and action for environmental conservation.

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