By Rhiannon Foster, Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs Scholar
Thursday 16th November was the fourth day of the Global Voices 2017 delegation at COP23. The day had several themes, including Education Day and Sustainable Energy Day. As my policy paper explored implications of behavioural research on climate change communications and behaviour change, I chose to follow several of the major events for Education Day. Youth engagement was also an important theme that intertwined with education.
I attended the YOUNGO Daily Meeting at 9am, along with several other Global Voices scholars. This set the tone of collaboration and coordination between a wide variety of NGO’s and action groups for the day. The meeting was short and sweet, as several members were speaking at the Uniting for Climate Change: Further Faster Together event that began at 9.30am.
An inspiring round of presentations espoused the importance of building resilience in young people in communities that are already facing the impacts of climate change but do not understand what climate change is. They highlighted that climate change education is not just a matter of providing facts on climate change, but must also address issues of illiteracy, raise youth involvement beyond activism to the diplomatic level and increase youth involvement in international negotiations. Emphasis was placed on the platform of Action for Climate Empowerment as a vehicle for structuring efforts to improve awareness, advocacy, training and knowledge enhancement to further practical actions on the ground. Collaboration between modern technologies and indigenous knowledge was also noted as key.
After an essential cappuccino, I then hot-footed to the High-Level Event: Uniting for Climate Education at 11.30am. It was introduced by a 15-year-old girl – woman! – from Los Angeles, California, who described herself as a “girl education advocate” working mostly in Africa due to their great need. She painted a dramatic image of places “around the world, where it’s raining when it’s never rained before, snowing where it’s never snowed before, and floods in places that have never seen them before”. She raised questions of whether weather education used old paradigms or incorporated new weather patterns altered by climate change, and the difficulties of not only teaching this to students, but teaching new curriculum to teachers and purchasing new textbooks, especially in developing countries.
The Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC followed by stating that “education of all ages is the key to solving climate problems”. Although I wasn’t able to stay much longer, I caught the beginning of a passionate speech by Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco on the importance of the COP Education Days, and on pooling and comparing our approaches to promoting sustainable development to rise to the challenge of climate change in order to enrich them.
Our Global Voices Delegation then came together again to attend a meeting with Ian Lieblich from Climate Policy Watch, who has been working with Small Island Developing States (SIDS). We discussed his journey from being a Global Voices scholar himself to where he is now, his work on climate finance, and the aims and outcomes of COP23 as an intermediary conference between the Paris Agreement and the finalisation of the rulebook in 2018 in Poland.
Continuing on my exploration of education, I then attended the UN: Dreaming Big In Education event on the partnerships we need for scaled up mitigation and adaptation. The key points were summarised as recognising the challenges and opportunities that come with climate change education, mainstreaming it throughout education including traditional subjects, and making use of technologies and innovations to enhance it.
We finished our day at the conference by watching the awarding of the Global Youth Video Competition on Climate Change winners, which were on the “Marrakech, the red city going green” and the importance of mangroves in reducing the impacts of natural disasters by acting as sponges for wild weather. Finally, we met for dinner with other youth delegates from Young European Leadership delegation and a Brazilian delegation, with lots of talking and laughter for a relaxing end to the day.
I found the education, communication and youth engagement themes repeated again and again throughout the day, as indeed they have been our whole time here. This year seems to represent an important step in including youth, traditional communities and practises, and developing communications to reach both the hearts and minds of the people of the world on climate change action. I am looking forward to our final day here and am very grateful for the opportunity to attend COP23 and be involved in discussing the myriad of intertwining viewpoints I have seen.