Seizing the moment: Crafting the path ahead

Pam J. Puntenney, UN Sustainable Development Education Caucus

The UN Sustainable Development Education Caucus in 2007, during COP13, presented a briefing on acknowledging the human dimensions of a climate change framework, focusing on a well-prepared society through environmental education, which was well received. At the global scale, society had never been in this position before – there were no roadmaps to chart a course.

After hours in meetings, analysing draft documents, advocacy work with colleagues, advising stakeholders, launching reports, and crafting timely input into the climate change negotiations over the last 10 years, the Paris Agreement gives the world a framework that does allow for nations and stakeholders to move us in a shared direction globally; to craft a strong ‘follow-up’ that will lead to stronger implementation and monitoring.  

Our shared prospects depend, to a great extent, on how rapidly and effectively governments and stakeholders of all kinds, at all levels, respond to larger trends and forces – which is to say how well and how quickly they learn to mobilise more ambitious climate action. The environmental integrity component of addressing climate change is non-negotiable, requiring the protection and restoration of healthy and natural systems as fundamental elements within the framework on climate change. Consequently, cooperation in the Paris Agreement includes civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other subnational authorities, local communities and Indigenous Peoples, and local sources of knowledge.

The principal challenge of crafting the 2020 five-year evaluation is the complexity and that changes over time are too subtle for science to predict and beyond our comprehension. By itself, the Paris Agreement will not save the planet, but it does open up a path for nations to respond and evaluate, facilitating clarity, transparency, and understanding of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and commitments (INDC). It also recognises the concept of ‘Climate Justice’, equity, and intergenerational engagement. As a result, it has become self evident that knowledge, meaning, and understanding are of equal concern as measurement, impacts, and physical causation of global warming.

Environmental education represents the planetary boundary within which the inter-relationships of human agency and climate change remain viable. To achieve a balance between mitigation and adaption from climate impacts requires an enabling framework where policy action and direction will promote the engagement of all of society for a highly informed decision-making process. This should be inclusive especially of those most vulnerable, and therefore encompass: non-discriminatory public access and participation in decision-making, transparency, broad-based coalition building, intergenerational justice, traditional and cultural knowledge, and the principle Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), meaning taking into account a country’s contribution to climate change and ability to contribute to a global response and their social and economic conditions. This inclusive and justice-based approach to decision-making should be applied to the whole of the Paris Agreement and the 2020 global review on progress to further reducing targets for emissions.

Global warming cannot be addressed using current tools and our perspectives given our current knowledge. The framework allows for the widest possible cooperation and participation in creating a global response as we develop new more effective tools and engagement of society.

Our policy briefing for Lima-Paris grew out of a two-year global consultation entitled, ‘Preparing Society for Climate Change’. With this unprecedented agreement in place, we are pleased by the frequent references to broad sources of systems of knowledge, participation, and access to resources to build capacity and understanding. Three questions emerge:

  1. How might the Parties to the Paris Agreement share their environmental education efforts, broadly defined, in a transparent fashion?
  2. What form might these educational efforts take, especially in terms of community participation, representation, and responsiveness?
  3. If enforcement and public accountability are not part of the final Agreement and the 2020 five year evaluation, what inducements might be offered within CBDR-RC to encourage transparent, broad-based coalition building, and climate justice through intergenerational equity?

And as we move through this transformation towards sustainability, how can this be accomplished in less than two decades, ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity? Are we prepared to assume the mantle of responsibility with our own commitments to action on climate issues? Have we reviewed and revised our existing National Strategies for Environmental Education, institutions and centres for sustainability to fit the new realities?


Pam J. Puntenney is the Co-Chair of the UNSD Education Caucus Co-Chair

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo Credit: John Englart (Takver) via Compfight cc