COP24: an important but insufficient agreement

Although it appreciates a useful action plan adopted by governments after the 24th United Nations Conference on Climate Change, Education International calls for further action, including climate change education in national school curricula.

Making progress on climate change education

Since the adoption of the Rio Convention (1992), it has been clearly recognised that climate change education (CCE) is crucial for promoting changes in lifestyles, attitudes and behaviour to make them compatible with sustainable development in the face of climate change.

At the 24th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP24), which took place between 2 and 15 December in Katowice, in Poland, the countries adopted an interesting roadmap for CCE.

The action plan, called Action for Climate empowerment, invites the countries to invest in climate change education, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and urges those that have not yet done so to appoint a national coordinator to address this issue.

In addition to advocating the systematic integration of education and training in all mitigation and adaptation activities carried out by the countries, the action plan also encourages the countries to develop and implement national action for climate empowerment strategies adapted to their national circumstances.

The Action Plan for Climate Empowerment lacks strength

Although Education International (EI) welcomes these measures, it nevertheless believes that further action is required.

“Only the inclusion of CCE in national school curricula could eventually provide the necessary impetus for the urgent transition to low-carbon societies”, argued Richard Langlois, EI representative at the COP24, adding that “in this perspective, sufficient financial resources should also be made available to less privileged countries in order to make this necessary transition possible”.

Low ambitions in the face of the urgency of the climate situation

In addition, on 15 December, the 197 countries present at the Conference in Katowice finally reached agreement on a “user manual” for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The agreement establishes a series of arrangements for monitoring national actions to combat climate change whose implementation can begin as early as 2020. It will encourage international cooperation and greater ambitions for the countries as regards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In terms of transparency, the countries will be required to provide information on their nationally-determined contributions and climate actions. This will include mitigation and adaptation issues, as well as detailed information on financial support granted to developing countries for climate action.

However, the Conference, which ended 24 hours later than scheduled, did not give rise to any new commitments by the States to meet their greenhouse gas emission targets in the near future; current efforts are insufficient to cope with climate change. Some countries have continuously dragged their feet on this issue, which will limit the scope of the Agreement.

It should be recalled that just a few weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned the international community of the urgent need to limit global warming to below 1.5°C as even 2°C will have severe impact on sea level and climate. This is the limit beyond which several small island countries and many coastal cities could be submerged by rising water levels. All the countries then endorsed these worrying findings.

Yet, the discussions led to many blockages in Poland. While developing countries were asking for more financial efforts to ensure their survival, fossil energy exporting countries were seeking more flexibility on the measures to be implemented.

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