In four days, the Cop26 will open. It represents one of governments’ last hopes to pull themselves together and cut emissions at the scale and pace needed to limit global warming to 1.5 Â° C.
Whatever happens at this conference, it will be the young people who will have to pick up the pieces. While politicians speak of 2050 as a distant point in the distant future, long after their careers have ended, today’s schoolchildren will be in the middle of their working lives.
Many will live to see the end of this century – and all the effects of climate inaction. But our education system does not prepare young people for this future. While we are told to list the benefits of climate change in geography lessons, we are not once taught the historical events and political systems that catalyzed the climate crisis, the social and economic repercussions that this disaster will induce, or what constitutes the possible solutions.
As a result, we are not equipped with the skills we need to live and work in a world increasingly affected by the climate crisis and we are deprived of climate information that is not confined to small sections in GCSE sciences or optional subjects such as horticulture and environment. science, which few institutions have the financial capacity to host.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that 70% of teachers reported no mention of climate in their training qualifications, while only 4% of students said they knew a lot about the climate crisis. It is clear that students are not sufficiently prepared for the workforce they will inherit, and teachers are not equipped to deliver this vital education.
It cannot continue. We need to ensure that climate education is no longer exclusive to those who take elective or briefly overlooked subjects, but rather focused on all subjects. The climate crisis will affect everyone, whether they are a builder or a banker, a caregiver or a pharmacist.
This means that climate education must be integrated into every subject in a way that is accessible to all. Climate education must be extended to include knowledge on how to stop and reduce the climate emergency and ecological crisis, ensure climate justice and provide support for students to cope with anxiety ecological and climate – something that climate education will also mitigate, as students will be provided with the information needed to tackle the problem.
We also need to be educated and prepared to adapt to our changing world. The climate crisis is already here. Our education system must stop treating this disaster as a hypothetical future and instead ensure that we are prepared for what is an inevitable reality.
To achieve this, we need to reform teacher training qualifications to prepare teachers to educate their students about the climate crisis and its interdependence with their subjects. A transformative education system could revolutionize our economy.
Whether it’s introducing climate learnings in the renewable energy sector, expanding professional courses to cover sustainability, or changing academic content to give us a realistic feel for our world and our subjects in their contexts impacted by the climate.
In doing so, we can create thousands of green jobs and set a precedent for the rest of the world, while saving the costs of tackling extreme climate change in the long term. The government’s plans undoubtedly depend on it.
If the government is serious about reaching net zero by 2050, it needs the workforce to do so. Despite all the government talk about the importance of skills-based education, there is something missing in not training the next generation that will be critical to the transition to a low carbon economy.
Today will be the first time that climate education will be debated in parliament – the first step in making education about sustainability and climate change a legal requirement across the curriculum.
We are bringing young climate strikers into the corridors of power, so MPs can come face to face with the next generation fighting to save our planet. Young people want to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. What we need are the skills and knowledge to do it. Our demands are simple: teach us the truth, prepare us for the future.