Dispatch from COP27: Harnessing education for effective climate action

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Speakers at the World Bank Pavilion side event at COP27 discussed how education can be harnessed to solve the climate crisis Speakers at the World Bank Pavilion side event at COP27 discussed how education can be harnessed to solve the climate crisis. Copyright: World Bank / COP27

When Nigerian educator and climate activist Temilade Salami first became interested in climate change, she set out to see what books or resources were available on the subject. After searching in many bookstores around Nigeria, she found just one book and was dismayed to discover that its contents “ looked nothing like the realities of [her] people.” If there were no books about climate change that spoke to the challenges faced in Nigeria, where would the new generation of leaders needed to address climate change come from and how would they be prepared to take on leadership roles? Temilade set out to change that by developing an accessible climate education book for Nigerian children. Her book features illustrations of black people and examples of the environmental challenges faced in the region.

This is just one of the examples of a commitment to climate education we heard about at the “ Harnessing Education for Climate Action,” a World Bank Pavilion side event at COP27. The event featured three young people who see very clearly what too few have recognized: education is a critical component of the solution to the climate crisis.

Durlabh Ashok, a software engineer turned climate activist from Pakistan, pointed out the devastating effects that climate change is having around the world. Recent flooding in his country has kept children out of school for weeks, compounding the disruption to their education from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the frequency and severity of natural disasters increases, climate change is poised to exacerbate the learning crisis by taking children out of school.  ​Analysis of learning data from 58 countries shows that higher temperatures lower learning outcomes – every day above 26.7ºC in the three years preceding PISA, which measures students’ performance in math, science and reading, lowers scores by 0.18 standard deviations. Education systems will need to adapt to build greater resilience and keep children in school.

Inés Yábar, an activist from Peru, spoke about the ripple effects climate education and climate action can have on individuals and communities. School attainment is the strongest predictor of awareness and understanding of climate change. Climate education for young people can also affect the behaviors and mindsets of their parents, who can be influenced by their children’s new knowledge. Education can be a catalyst for action, and when young people act, they can shift the mindsets and behaviors of those around them.

Temilade Salami spoke about the importance of ensuring that those affected most by climate change play a leading role in determining how the global community will address it. This will require a new generation of leaders from low- and middle-income countries who are prepared with the motivation and knowledge to tackle these challenges at both national and international levels. Education is vital to preparing that new generation of leaders.

As these three remarkable young people have demonstrated through their work and shared in their remarks, education is a powerful but under-leveraged tool for promoting climate action. Climate change is having deep profound effects on students and education systems, and education can, and must, be harnessed as part of the solution. 

Many thanks to Surraya Masood for valuable input on this draft.


Marla Spivack

Young Professional Education Global Unit

Diego Ambasz

Senior Education Specialist

Shwetlena Sabarwal

Lead Economist, Education Global Practice, World Bank

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