Last week, I joined children from Ark Tindal Primary Academy in Birmingham who are members of their school’s eco council. As they showed me round polytunnels and vegetable patches, I saw how they have transformed their inner-city playground into a sanctuary of biodiversity. It was inspiring to see how young people are caring for and improving the environment around them.
Children and young people are focused on climate change and its impact. They want to know more about how it is affecting them now and how it will do so in the future. This is as true in Birmingham as it is for children around the world and it is clear that collaborating with our international partners is crucial.
That’s why today, I am attending the education day at COP28 in Dubai – sharing experiences, views and expertise with education leaders from around the world. We will work together to develop national education strategies to address climate risk and build more resilient education systems.
Ahead of COP28, I am proud that the UK was one of the founding partners and signatories of an education ministerial declaration, in partnership with UNESCO and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). This declaration aims to secure political buy-in from a host of countries across the world as signatories pledge to move the education and climate change agenda from dialogue to action. We have already signed up 26 countries, with more signing up at COP28.
This is by no means the first time the department for education has made an important contribution to COP. In 2021, we hosted the first international environment and education ministers’ summit at COP26, and in 2022 we launched the Greening Education Partnership at COP27 to take action to tackle climate change through education.
And while international collaboration is essential, so too is action on a local scale. This autumn, we launched the National Education Nature Park, an ambitious nationwide project to empower young people to make a positive difference to their immediate environment, learn about nature and improve the biodiversity of the school estate.
The National Education Nature Park is a key part of our sustainability and climate change strategy, which sets out our approach to climate education, aiming for England to be the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030. The strategy was developed in collaboration with young people, ensuring they are at the centre of our approach.
To empower young people to take positive action on the environment, we need great education leaders. In May this year, we published guidance on sustainability leadership in education. The guidance will support education settings in identifying areas to take action and in considering how to prioritise the steps they take.
Next year, we are taking the next step by rolling out a free programme of support to help the sector implement their own climate action plans. This includes a digital support hub, coordinated regional support and access to risk and emissions data. This programme will bring together action on climate education, green skills and careers, decarbonisation, adaptation and biodiversity.
I am heartened by the work already happening in education around climate and sustainability. I am looking forward to sharing this progress, and learning from our international partners at COP28 as we work together to develop the climate leaders of the future.