From left: Jameela Salem Al Muhairi; Razan Al Mubarak, secretary-general of Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi; Sultan Abdullah Alwan Al Habsi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, and Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi after signing the agreement in Dubai. Image Credit: A.K Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: Awareness of climate change and how to help save the environment will soon be taught in classrooms across the UAE, authorities announced on Saturday.

Under plans to tweak school curriculums to include learning on sustainability, schoolchildren will also be shown how to take energy-saving measures. These include schoolchildren of all ages, including in private sector schools, learning the importance of turning off lights and air-conditioning when not in use, and how to use less water.

Each pupil will also be encouraged to spread the message to their family and friends.

One of these initiatives, called Sustainable Schools, is an extension of a programme that started in Abu Dhabi in 2009.

“Now, we’re going to roll it out and apply it in the rest of the schools in the whole of the UAE,” said Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.

The ministry acquired its new name at the UAE Cabinet reshuffle in February, in a move intended to reflect the government’s focus on tackling climate change.

On Saturday, the minister inked a deal in Dubai with the Ministry of Education and the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi. Under the terms, the three government bodies will work together to introduce the sustainability programmes and green curriculum in every school.

The sustainable curriculum will be applied across several subjects, such as economics and science. A group of government and private schools across the country will be part of a pilot scheme that will start next year, Al Zeyoudi said.

If successful, all schools across the country will adopt the initiatives.

Schoolchildren will also be taught about the UAE’s efforts to combat climate change, such as the Paris Agreement, which it signed in April along with 192 other states.

“Some of the main challenges that we’re facing — waste management, [use of] chemical pesticides, the safety of foods — these all are going to be part of the curriculum,” the minister told Gulf News.

“For sure, water is going to have a big chunk of the focus because of the scarcity of water in this region,” he added.

“These environmental initiatives are launched in collaboration with authorities concerned with the aim of imparting awareness on proper environmental practices and healthy lifestyle among the new generation through schools. They also aim at incorporating sustainability and climate change in our school curriculum to cope up with the nation’s moral values and the national green agenda and strategy.

“Our Generations is a leading initiative and an integrated educational programme that is designed to provide students with ample opportunities to have a strong environmental consciousness and eco-friendly culture as well as to participate in practical environmental activities. The initiative also aims to raise awareness about the fundamental factors that cause environmental problems, and to equip students with positive attitudes towards their environment since childhood,.

“The ministry works to educate the young generation about the ongoing efforts at local and global levels to combat climate change issues and the concrete steps taken by the nation and the global community such as the UAE’s Green Agenda and Paris Agreement,” he elaborated.

Jameela Salem Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, said, “The Sustainable Schools Initiative has achieved great success in enriching the sustainable environmental status in Abu Dhabi schools, and accomplished outstanding results in terms of achieving a positive environmental footprint at schools. Therefore, we plan to take this experience to the rest of the schools across the UAE, so as to achieve effective environmental outcomes which contribute to the preservation of a sustainable environment in our schools and in our beloved country. We are currently focusing our efforts on experimenting with the initiative at selected schools as a first step and more schools will follow at later stages.”