The past seven years have been the warmest on record. As temperatures rise, children are increasingly exposed to intense and destructive climate risks such as air pollution, water shortages, heat waves, vector-borne diseases, cyclones, and river and coastal flooding.
Unicef estimates that over the past 30 years, more than 63 million children in the Latin American and Caribbean region have been affected by an extreme weather event or climate-related disaster. On average, each extreme episode during this period affected more than 38,000 children.
We have witnessed many debates about climate change. However, this conversation left out a key aspect to solving this problem: the education of the younger generation, who will also suffer the worst consequences of this crisis.
Minors have the right to participate and express their opinions on the issues affecting them, such as the climate crisis. Their idea and its impact on their environment play a fundamental role in mitigating the risks associated with climate change, but they have no training bodies that adequately prepare them on the issue.
One in three young activists mention that education should be included in environmental and climate policies and plans
According to a Unicef survey, one in three young activists mentions that education should be included in environmental and climate policies and plans, as it is necessary both to tackle the climate crisis and to ensure that children and young people are included. .
Given the tremendous opportunities to shape a sustainable and prosperous future, building a climate-literate population is one of the greatest and most urgent strategies to create opportunity and foster solutions. Formal and informal education must equip children and young people with knowledge about climate change, ecological skills and resilience techniques, and ensure that minors participate in climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience activities. Climate change education enables young people to be part of the solution, to influence household behavior and ultimately to drive greater national action and commitment to managing and responding to the crisis.
On November 17, 2020, in Bilwi, Nicaragua, a child uses a plastic chair to protect himself from heavy rain at the site of his home destroyed after Hurricane Iota Ocon/AFP -Be (UNICEF)
Without effective collaboration between the public, private and civil society worlds, counteracting the effects of climate change would be impossible. Cortés Solari Philanthropy, a Chilean foundation for sustainable development, and the MERI Foundation, which conducts scientific research, have been promoting comprehensive education for sustainable development for more than 20 years, under the understanding that we are all part of nature and that , from different areas we can contribute to curbing global warming.
In this sense, Fundación MERI and Unicef work together on concrete actions that promote and strengthen environmental education in Latin America and the Caribbean. With education, children will be able to receive the tools to recognize, connect and appreciate living things and their surroundings, and learn to function in harmonious coexistence with the environment. Environmental education will unleash efforts towards sustainable consumption and the creation of green goods and services.
Globally, more than 1,000 million boys and girls live at extreme risk from the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, many of them in the Latin American and Caribbean region. It is imperative that the countries of the region prioritize mandatory and quality climate education through the necessary policies, tools and resources. Training is the basis of action. Let’s make our schools centers of transformation and adaptation for the future custodians of the climate.
Reis Lopez Rello he is Regional Advisor on Climate Change and Sustainable Development for Unicef Latin America and the Caribbean; Y Francisca Cortes Solari is the Executive President of the MERI Foundation.
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