Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of Education
Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of Education Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Students across the UAE will dedicate more learning time to climate change and action under a new cross-curricular plan that aims to increase awareness of sustainability.

The new cross-curricular framework being developed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in the run up to COP28, which starts in November, will introduce activities and lessons on energy, the Earth biosphere, consumption and climate action, and sustainability innovation for all students in the UAE.

The initiative is part of the Green Education Partnership, which will also see half of all schools and universities embark on a journey to become green-accredited.

The MoE also announced that it is designing an Education Pavilion for COP28, which is set to become the first dedicated educational centre at COP.

Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of Education, said at the launch of the partnership in the capital, said: “Individual behaviours toward climate change are still the key to making a real impact, and with that comes the significant role of education in shifting minds, actions, and attitudes about the environment today, and in the future.”

He added: “At the MoE, we have a critical role to play to advance the role of education in addressing climate change, by building environment-friendly curricula and schools and training educators to build sustainable green communities. The UAE’s hosting of COP28 presents another opportunity to highlight the country’s efforts in this field and mobilise international efforts to include green education within educational systems in the region and the world.”

The UAE is keen to draw a practical and agile roadmap that countries across the globe can tailor, adapt to, and benefit from in educating students and educators about climate change, the minister said.

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International agreements

During the press conference, the MoE signed agreements with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to advance climate education and action among children and youth in the lead-up, at and after COP28.

Officials during the Green Education Partnership agreement
Officials during the Green Education Partnership agreement Image Credit: Supplied

“UNESCO will work closely with the Ministry in co-designing the first Education Pavilion in the history of COP together with the Greening Education Partnership (GEP). UNESCO will [also] collaborate with the MoE on raising the awareness of educators and learners about the importance of safeguarding oases, an exceptional eco-system and observatory of climate change, that is a common feature throughout several Arab countries,” said Salah Khaled, director of the UNESCO Regional Office for the Gulf States and Yemen.

Under the leadership of the UAE, UNESCO will further support the organisation of a high-level advocacy meeting with member states’ leaders on the role of education to tackle the climate crisis, and convene the first co-creation meeting of the Greening Education Partnership Multi-Partner Trust Fund. The Greening Education Partnership (GEP) was launched last year at the Transforming Education Summit with a specific focus on tackling climate change, one of the most pressing challenges of our time.

New resources

Authorities will soon equip children with green skills, and support the training of educators on climate education. The MoE will also make available open-source learning materials for climate education.

“At UNICEF we see the climate crisis as a crisis of children’s rights. Nearly every child around the world is exposed to climate and environmental hazards. Children and young people will face the full devastating consequences of the climate crisis, water insecurity, and other disasters which they had little to no hand in causing. Therefore, our duty towards all young people and future generations is to involve them in all negotiations and decision-making processes related to climate change at the national, regional and international levels,” said Jumana Haj-Ahmad, UNICEF Gulf deputy representative.

Training educators

The roadmap to COP28 identified environment-and-climate-friendly initiatives that the MoE aims to achieve by the start of COP28 and afterwards. For instance, the MoE will transform 50 per cent of all the UAE’s schools and campuses to be green accredited, and provide training to more than 2,400 educators and 1,400 principals. The MoE will also launch the Children’s Voice programme, under which Child Champions will be offered training that enables them to participate in decision-making related to their environmental future. Under the Educator’s Voice initiative, the MoE will highlight the key role of educators in raising awareness about climate change and combatting its repercussions. Both initiatives will contribute to magnifying the voices of more than 70 students and educators.

Additionally, the MoE will collaborate with UNESCO to establish a United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) for Greening Education. The UAE will act as a champion country, and develop the Terms of Reference among the MPTF partners. Both parties will also raise awareness among learners about the importance of safeguarding oasis systems in the Arab world as cultural and natural eco-systems.