The power of education on the path to climate change

Development of climate literacy

By increasing students’ awareness and understanding of climate change and action, schools can empower young people to become agents of change within their local communities. Studies suggest that once young people learn about the weather, they also help educate their families, which has a multiplier effect in their communities. To accelerate climate literacy, educators, educational institutions, and governments must commit to implementing plans that are action-oriented (rather than simply disseminating information) and train teachers accordingly.

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Schools must invest in the sustainability of their own infrastructure to set an example and offer experiential learning opportunities to students. Researchers also need to rigorously assess the indirect effects that climate literacy development has on the broader community in terms of advocacy and behavior change.

Cultivate skills for a just transition

As economies make the green transition, education can shape employees through retraining and continuing education while laying the foundation for those who will fill (and define) the jobs of the future. This is critical as without the skilled teams needed to catch up on innovations, the transition to a green economy can be delayed.

To facilitate a just transition to a sustainable economy, leaders in education, government, and industry must embrace an expansive vision of green skills and climate literacy that includes the technical and leadership competencies that the future demands. Leaders must take a data-driven approach to understand the skills required for a greener economy and align educational programs and trainings across institutions. Partnerships between education, government and industry must focus on ensuring that everyone, especially those from historically marginalized groups, has access to the necessary skills and pathways to good work.

Develop adaptability

To date, many investments to improve adaptability and resilience have focused on infrastructure, but this falls short of strategies to deal with climate change. Increased investment in education is a critical means of improving long-term adaptive capacities.

To build a stronger case for incentivizing investment in education, more research is needed to demonstrate the link between education and improved adaptability, resilience, and economic opportunity. Greater evidence and awareness of the potential of education could strengthen countries’ national adaptation plans and unlock more flexible intersectional financing options.

We must go down this path, understanding that education can have a transformative impact on climate action as it empowers students to reduce and respond to the adverse effects of climate change and bring what they learn in class back to their communities. It also gives employees the skills to thrive in a greener economy, and equips leaders to implement the next level of climate innovations and navigate a just transition. Finally, it also allows citizens to use their voice, spending power and political support to drive climate action. The time has come to unleash the power of education to advance climate action and justice.

Managing Director & Partner of Boston Consulting Group.

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