‘Learning, unlearning and re-learning’: reflections on COP27
Dr Beth Christie, Senior Lecturer in Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh, was a delegate at COP27. In this video, she reflects on her experiences at the Conference – and what it means in terms of possible next steps for learners, educators and enablers of learning across the world:
“I really feel that there was a strong sense that climate education – sustainability education – is no longer this ‘nice to have’. This is a core, fundamental aspect of ensuring that countries reach their climate targets, so it really needs to be treated as the lynchpin of how we address and achieve those climate ambitions.”Dr Beth Christie, COP27 delegate
What were your impressions of the educational debate at COP27?
“I think there were some clear positives.
It was a major first to have the inclusion of the Children and Youth Pavilion and I could see that education was featuring clearly within the ACE (Action for Climate Empowerment) movement. When I think back to Glasgow and COP26, I came away from that COP feeling that there had been a strong push on education as a central, core, fundamental agenda; something that needed to feature both within negotiations and the NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) at a high level, but also to feature at a domestic level within countries in terms of being part of, and central to, curricula and formal education as well. I could see that momentum, that conversation, continue into COP27 but what I couldn’t see always clearly was how that was going to translate into action and implementation, so the pragmatics of how that was going to ‘operationalise’ wasn’t always clear to me.
I’m really keen to see what comes out over the next year about how this is going to play out. I think if you’re looking for progress at a high level for collective change then we might feel that progress is slow, but if we look within countries and communities, then I can see that that momentum. Those conversations are continuing so it’s very much alive – but it’s almost within their own ‘spheres of influence'”.
What impact did COP27 have on you?
“If we think of education in its broader sense – as ‘social movement learning’ and the more informal ‘production of knowledge’, then I would say COP27 as a moment in time was absolutely alive with that form of knowledge production. I had the privilege of being in Egypt at COP27 and of being in Glasgow at COP26 as well and at both of those conferences, I left absolutely ‘full’. My thinking was challenged – it was developed, it was moved, it was pushed in every conversation that I had. That process of learning, of unlearning and of relearning was happening within the delegation that I was part of, but it was also happening as you stood around the organised protests. It was happening within the food courts at COP27, it was happening within the buses that were transporting us to the venues.”
What do you think will happen now?
“Education in all of its forms is very much ‘bubbling along’ and the push now feels to me that it has to be about moving towards that formal, cross-sectoral strategy where we try to move the educational issues forward. I’ve read that there’s going to be a day that’s dedicated to education at COP28, so I’m really interested to see what that’s going to involve and, importantly, who that is going to involve as well.
So, to finish up I’d say I feel – I know – the challenge is trying to keep the political will to invest in climate education alive and to ensure that climate education, climate justice education and sustainability education in all of its forms stays on the formal agenda – and to find a way to ensure that educators, ministers of education, children, youth are all involved in this process as key stakeholders as well.”
Click on the following links for more perspectives and thoughts about what’s next for education after COP27:
- ‘5 key takeaways from COP27 for the education movement’ (Global Partnership)
- ‘The Youth Perspective on COP27’ (Royal Scottish Geographical Society)
- ‘Shaping Climate Education – a view from COP27 (Cambridge University Press & Assessment)
- ‘Post-COP27 climate change education: where do we go from here?’ (Mission 4.7)
- ‘COP27: sealing education’s role in climate action’ (Schools Week)
- ‘Our experience at COP27’ (Students Organising for Sustainability)