Countries, and non-state actors, including youth, expressed strong support and called for raising ambition and mobilizing commitments for Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid.
ACE in the context of the international climate change process refers to education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation on climate change. It is Article 6 of the Convention and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement and enjoys broad public support.
In his keynote address, John Kerry, Visiting Distinguished Statesman at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said “no country in the world is getting the job done” when it comes to action on climate change and urged stepped-up commitments and action.
“This is a critical moment for the world. We can’t just call it a climate crisis, or a climate emergency, and not behave like it is,” said the former Secretary of State of the United States of America, who heard four youth delegates at the event before going to the podium to deliver his remarks.
“These kids shouldn’t have to be the ones to tell us adults to get the job done, but they are,” said Mr. Kerry. “Shame on adults all around the world who are succumbing to the power of money, continuing [development] practices that we know don’t work.”
“Action for Climate Empowerment, especially awareness and public engagement, are key to win the race against climate change. I believe we can do it together,” said Mr. Kerry.
Lorenzo Fioramonti, Minister of Education, University and Research, Italy, reaffirmed the urgency of implementing climate change education. We are losing the race against climate change and “need a major acceleration.”
A key part of Italy’s response is to “go all-out on making sustainable development an integral part of education,” said Mr. Fioramonti, pledging that Italy will lead efforts to gain support for ACE. Italy is set to become the first country to make climate change lessons compulsory in schools.
Italian Minister for Environment, Land and Sea Protection, Sergio Costa, gave the audience a heads-up on the 2020 pre-COP discussions, to be hosted in Italy in advance of Glasgow’s COP26. He announced that Italy will host a youth conference to engage the new generations in climate solutions.
“Ambition also means increase in participation, through ACE,” said Mr. Costa.
Andreas Pinkwart, Minister of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, said that “for a real shift in thinking and acting” we need a good education, information, conviction and dialogue.
The climate effort “needs the youth perspective” – youth in their respective home countries to “spread the word” and as “representatives of specific regional views,” said Mr. Pinkwart who briefed the audience on a soon-to-be-launched ACE Hub for education and training support, a joint initiative of the State of North Rhine–Westphalia and UN Climate Change.
Mary Goretti Kitutu, Minister of Water and Environment, Uganda, spoke about efforts to foster change in attitudes and behaviors, by developing and implementing an ACE national strategy, integrating climate change in the curriculum of Uganda’s primary education system, creating educational materials, awarding climate action grants and other means. She stressed the need for mobilizing funding to support the implementation of the ACE agenda.
María Isabel Celaá Diéguez, Minister of Education and Vocational Training, Spain, said that no generation has a greater responsibility than to take care of the generation that follows it, “however, our younger generations are demanding that we, people with political responsibilities, should take better care of our environment.”
The climate emergency is aggravating all other problems, such as poverty and childrens’ health and education. This is the time for action, and “the action begins in schools – education transforms societies,” said Ms. Celaá, pledging that by 2025 all Spanish students will have acquired theoretical and practical knowledge of sustainable development.
Representing the COP26 incoming presidency, Archie Young, Head of Delegation, United Kingdom, stressed that climate change “cannot be tackled exclusively by governments.” He noted a “real change” in climate awareness in recent years in the media and public, and especially in the youth: “we must champion that.”
Youth becoming the educators
“Education on climate is something that all countries can agree on,” said Martin Frick, Senior Director for Policy and Programme Coordination, UN Climate Change, who stressed the importance of integrating ACE into the climate change policies, especially in 2020 into the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement and fostering climate education in the broad sense, not just for youth.
When it comes to education, in fact, youth are “reversing the education pyramid” and now “young people are educating their parents and grandparents,” said Mr. Frick.
Burgenland Declaration on ACE
Maria Patek, Federal Minister for Sustainability and Tourism, Austria, spoke about efforts in Austria to create an ever-wider circle of informed individuals, to enable communities to sustain efforts on climate change and development – for example through the country’s Klimaaktiv climate protection initiative aimed at launching and promoting climate-friendly technologies and services.
She also cited the Burgenland Declaration on ACE, launched in October 2019, as an example of Austria’s commitment to ACE.
Talieh Wögerbauer, ACE Ambassador and a climate negotiator with Austria’s Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, said “we need to do more than express gratitude to youth; but, we the decision makers, we have to listen to you seriously, at the table, eye-to-eye.”
Ms. Wögerbauer invited people to sign the Burgenland Declaration on ACE and declare their determination and commitment to make ACE “fundamental in the planning and actions of our government, organization, agency, company or personal or public enterprise, and to support and encourage others to do the same, for the sake of protecting Earth’s climate for present and future generations.”
During the high-level event on ACE, children and youth spoke passionately, urging adults to do their part to ensure a safe future. From left, Licypriya Kangujam, an eight-year-old self-described planet activist from India said, “This is a real climate emergency; you must change your way of thinking.”; Nkosilathi Nyathi, from Zimbabwe, called for climate action now and the right to be heard. “I live [climate change], my family lives it, we all suffer. The climate crisis is actually real.”; Brianna Fruean of Samoa, “a proud daughter of the Pacific, and a Pacific island warrior” said “we are all in the same canoe. Island states like my own cannot afford another 25 years of COPs.”; and Julieta Martinez, of Chile, called on those present to “show that our actions are aligned with our speeches.”
Miguel Clüsener-Godt, Director, Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, UNESCO, said the greatest challenge is the required “massive transformation in how we all think and act” to “change minds not the climate.”
Ashok Sridharan, Mayor of Bonn, Germany, and President of ICLEI, spoke on how “cities are change-makers” mobilizing climate action. ICLEI is a signatory to the Burgenland Declaration.
Manuela Mendonça, Executive Board Member, Education International, World Teachers Union, Portugal, said she and her organization “stand with our students in demanding immediate climate action and social justice.”
Climate change education must be a core element of the curriculum for a sustainable future, said Ms. Mendonça.
Chinese movie star, Zheng Shuang, who advocates on behalf of Youth Voices for Climate Action and Youth4Climate, offered to help spread the word on education and work with young people of all countries – “Now is the time for action.”
Niclas Svenningsen, Manager, Global Climate Action, UN Climate Change, moderated much of the two-hour high-level event, before handing over to Alexander Leicht, Chief, Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO.
Mr. Svenningsen pointed the audience to a new donation platform and invited everyone to support climate action through ACE to help ensure a low-carbon and resilient future for present and future generations. Donations contribute to the training of climate experts in developing countries and empowering youth to participate in climate conferences and lead climate action.
About Action for Climate Empowerment
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) is a term adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to denote work under Article 6 of the Convention (1992) and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement.
The over-arching goal of ACE is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action, through education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues.
Support the global response to climate change
You are invited to donate to boost climate action through ACE and help ensure a low-carbon and resilient future for present and future generations.
For more information contact press(at)unfccc.int