The UN Youth Climate Summit is a platform for young leaders who are driving climate action to showcase their solutions at the United Nations, and to meaningfully engage with decision-makers on the defining issue of our time.
This historic event took place on Saturday, September 21 at the United Nations Headquarters, as part of a weekend of events leading up to the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit on Monday, September 23.
For five years UNDP has been working with young people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to educate and empower them to take climate action.
The climate is changing faster than we are. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned, we are already off-track regarding the climate goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the world is warming so quickly that those goals are now not ambitious enough.
Despite these challenges, there are positive changes that give us hope. Clean energy is becoming more affordable, and innovation is the new norm. New, younger leaders have come on stage willing to trigger bold climate action. All over the world our new climate heroes—schoolchildren—are marching to demand action.
Children and young people are no longer satisfied to simply follow the path set by older generations. Since 2018, hundreds of thousands of students in more than 110 countries have walked out of lessons for FridaysForFuture climate strikes. Knowledge about the global climate crisis made them demand action from their governments.
Greta Thunberg, climate activist and founder of FridaysForFuture, said, “[Teachers] were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change.”
Inspired by the energy and potential of young people, five years ago our climate team at UNDP Eurasia decided to go right to classrooms with a new climate education curriculum called Climate Box. Here is what we learned and how, we believe, climate education contributes to global climate action.
Teachers have a unique role and a unique power. They can shape community values, promote responsible behaviour, and support children in becoming true global citizens.
Good teachers are also eager to learn with their students. There is a demand for modern, credible, comprehensive information and learning tools for teachers on climate change. In response to this demand, UNDP has engaged with more than 3,000 teachers in more than 2,000 schools across eight countries in Europe and Central Asia to pilot a new climate curriculum, called Climate Box.
In five years Climate Box has travelled across eight countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and reached more than 50,000 school children in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
In that time it has evolved from an innovative toolkit into a comprehensive climate education programme that engages with the education ministries, schools, as well as informal education.
Schools are more than just classrooms. They are community centres, social spaces, and safe havens. They serve as community information hubs and shelters during natural disasters. If we are to reach out to communities on the global climate crisis, schools need to be at the heart of the campaign. Formal education systems need to be part of climate action, which will require investment in education. These investments need to include new education standards, training for teachers, better climate curricula, extracurricular engagement, zero-carbon schools, and climate-proofing of school buildings. The education sector needs to be part of all Nationally Determined Contributions—the pledges countries have made as part of the Paris Agreement.
It’s spurred young people across the region to action. Take Hurshejon Komilov, a high school student in Tajikistan. After taking the course, he decided to clean up the Syr Darya River.
“I presented my project and taught a master class in several schools around the city about how to design a purification filter. I also used local media to publicize my project,” he says.
I’ve heard from hundreds of teachers and students about the inspiration they draw from Climate Box, whether it’s new ways of learning, new projects, or new ideas to enrich their curricula. The climate education approaches that we have been piloting in our region are also relevant for a broader education reform—more open, integrated, engaging, and forward-looking learning methods.
“Climate Box presents a wonderful set of visual aids and useful information that we can use in the classroom. Some topics and posters, such as ‘reducing your carbon footprint,’ can be used with younger students - this encourages students from an early age to think about saving resources and energy,” says Maya Batyrova, who teaches in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
One of the most valuable features of Climate Box is to gather school children and teachers from across borders to share their projects and ideas about climate action. A summer camp in Orlyonok, in Russian Krasnadar Region in June of this year attracted 100 students from nine countries.
“I have learnt a lot, studied interesting aspects of energy saving, and met very interesting people. And I’m extremely glad that I will be able to use this knowledge in the future,” said Serdar Chariyev, 16, from Turkmenistan.
Climate Box also contributes to a larger effort under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Action for Climate Empowerment, which focuses on six priority areas: education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation for climate action.
After an exciting and enriching journey, we are looking for new ideas and partners to spread the climate curriculum to new countries and regions. Please contact us at UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub if you are interested in collaborating with us or learning more about Climate Box!
Read more about the exciting projects young people in the region are working on here.