Here’s why this year’s Education for Climate Policy Forum left us feeling optimistic

Ádám Horváth 2023. 05. 08. 12:06

Recently, the second edition of the Education for Climate Policy and Practice Forum was held, a European Commission-backed community collaboration initiative focused on driving the green transition and creating a sustainable future. It brought together education policy-makers, experts and practitioners to share and discuss policy solutions and good practices in tackling the green education challenge. That is, to transform education and learning environments to equip students with climate change knowledge and adaptation competencies.

What makes the forum especially important is that the ideas proposed are heard by representatives of several EU policy departments, including the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture and the Joint Research Centre. These bodies play a crucial part in developing European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund programmes.

In other words, they’re critical to translating climate change education ambitions into actionable and accessible steps – and results.

I had the honour to not only participate but also to share my two cents on the issue of climate education as well as to introduce Maker’s Red Box’s solution. Here’s what I’ve taken away from the forum.

New impetus for climate thinking and action

The reason why I found this year’s edition especially inspiring and empowering is that it gave much-needed new momentum to the fight against climate change, in and outside of classrooms.

The Paris Agreement adopted at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference was a watershed moment in addressing the global climate crisis. It’s been ratified by almost every country in the world, signalling renewed commitment to building a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. Two years ago, the 197 countries in attendance at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference agreed to a new deal, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, in an effort to stave off a looming climate emergency.

Unlike the planet, enthusiasm has cooled down since, with talks about climate change and plans for climate action taking a backseat.

Of course, this is no small part due to the war in Ukraine. Not only has the conflict diverted attention from climate concerns, but it has also released vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the air and sparked a global energy crisis. This means that the problem is still there – in fact, it’s got worse. The time to integrate climate change knowledge into national education curriculums is now.

Education at the core of global change

The challenge of climate education has, however, always been the same: how should schools address sustainability topics? In the most practical terms, should it be structured under a single subject? If yes, which one? And how can educators even begin teaching students the catalogue of skills and competencies they need to build climate resilience and cut climate risks?

The reality is that without an interdisciplinary approach and a comprehensive learning programme it’s impossible to educate children about the incredibly complex science of climate change.

The study of the climate crisis is as much the study of maths, physics and geography as it is that of culture, religion and society. It also requires the development of a bevy of soft skills, primarily critical thinking, collaboration and creative problem-solving. No wonder that both policy-makers and practitioners struggle to find a coherent response plan.

It’s not for want of trying. Many educational institutions now organize project weeks or stand-alone activities to boost students’ climate awareness and sensitivity. For example, a trip to the local incinerator, followed by a discussion on the climate change impacts of burning waste. The problem is that most of these schemes only focus on a single or very few aspects of the global and layered phenomenon that is climate change and sustainable living. Or, in Hungary for instance, they’re completely optional for schools.

In today’s workplaces – and honestly, everyday life – it’s anything but. Employers everywhere are embracing sustainability and mindfulness of their impact on the local and global environment and society. It’s no surprise they’re expecting their new and existing hires to do the same.

As one of the forum participants advised, policy-makers and how they go about implementing new technologies are also under growing scrutiny. With good reason: for example, Hungary’s electronic prescription service, which was rolled out in 2020, is used to issue over 800,000 prescriptions per day. Depending on how many images such a website contains and how easy it is to navigate, its carbon footprint can be enormous. At the same time, it can save thousands of trips to the doctor’s. Finding the right balance is key to achieving a sustainable outcome.

Showing children the power of together and where it can take us

Educators must find ways to help children understand that the choices they make on a daily basis, whether it’s about what they eat, how long they shower or what they wear, can affect our planet sometimes even thousands of kilometres away from where they live.

One of the solutions presented at the forum that I found really inspiring – partly because it was very similar to our City of the Future course materials – was a project jointly launched by the city of Dublin and University College Dublin. In the programme, children are given the opportunity to take on the role of Lord Mayor of Dublin and make decisions about how the city should address rising sea levels caused by climate change. These include budget allocation, investment analysis and evaluating precautionary and reactionary measures.

In the same spirit, our City of the Future course materials challenge children to complete a fully-fledged urban design and development project, each of them with their own area of responsibility but with a single goal in mind: finding solutions to the most pressing problems cities around the world are facing today. In our Global Warning course, students set off on an imaginary expedition around the world to see the damage that climate change has wrought on the planet but also how creativity, empathy and working together can pave the way towards rebuilding it.

Listening to my fellow education experts, I was confirmed in my belief that the right way of tackling the green education challenge is through understanding the part each of us plays in the grand scheme of things and learning the skills we need to fight climate change.

I do recommend that you listen to my fellow presenters and forum discussions here and download our climate change education playbook here for proven strategies for addressing the climate crisis in the classroom. If you’re looking for comprehensive course materials for climate change and sustainability education, you might want to explore our suite here.


Ádám Horváth is Head of Pedagogy at Maker’s Red Box. A champion of digital and STEAM education reforms, Ádám has dedicated the past two decades to developing digital education programmes and advising schools, communities, businesses and governments on how to get them right. He has also serves as a judge at the World Robot Olympiad and at the FIRST LEGO League Open European Championship, and is an EU Code Week ambassador.

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