Advancing Climate Action in and through Education

Climate change poses challenges to education infrastructure and learning outcomes. Education can contribute to climate action through proactive education systems and equipping learners with the knowledge and skills to overcome these challenges.

Students drink Air RahMat water
Photo credit: Ika Francisca / The Coca-Cola Company and USAID partnered to help address the world’s growing water and environmental challenges. School projects, like this one in Indonesia, incorporated messages on simple and effective environment practices.

Climate Risks to Education

Climate change poses challenges to education infrastructure and learning outcomes. It impacts marginalized populations disproportionately, worsening poverty and exacerbating non-climate stressors. The effects of climate change are manifesting differently around the world. Some climate risks to education include:

  • Education institutional closures due to overheated buildings, structural damage due to sea level rise, or flooding/heavy precipitation
  • Interruptions to attendance and reduced learning efficiency due to vector-borne diseases, extreme heat, and disaster-related displacement
  • Reduced household incomes and increased farming hardship due to drought and seasonal changes, thus, families’ reduced ability to invest in education for their children and youth
  • Increased migration of the most marginalized for work and alternative livelihoods, due to climate change’s effects on rural livelihoods.

Education Contributions to Climate Action

Mitigation: Strong education systems, from pre-primary through higher education, can implement proactive measures to reduce climate shocks and stressors in the long-term, such as: powering schools with renewable energy; choosing fuel-efficient options for transporting learners to and from school; applying climate smart practices to book supply chains; training the green workforce; and, conducting research to develop green technologies. Education for girls and young women, in particular, advances their empowerment and reproductive health, fosters their climate leadership and pro-environmental decision making, and helps them develop green skills for green jobs.

Adaptation & Resilience: Education equips learners with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to adapt to and overcome climate challenges. Education systems with strong emergency response capacity minimize damage and disruption due to climate events, such as droughts and hurricanes. Technical, vocational, and higher education, in partnership with the private sector, can also prepare job seekers for work and self-employment in energy, agriculture, and other sectors to support more resilient societies and economies.

Six Climate Action Strategies for USAID Education Programming

  1. Partner with Ministries to integrate climate themes in pre-primary education, basic education, higher education, and youth workforce development curriculum
  2. Support education leaders to plan for climate resilience and green infrastructure
  3. Support youth through technical and vocational education and in partnership with the private sector to build skills for green jobs 
  4. Engage youth leaders to advocate for improved environmental practices and attitudes in their communities
  5. Leverage the research capacity and community engagement components of higher education systems and  institutions to serve as climate action leaders and knowledge generators
  6. Increase focus on Climate Risk Management; Improve staff and implementing partner capacity through training such as Climate Resilient Development 101 and What is the Climate Risk Management Process?

Education & Climate Change Resources

Examples of Climate Action in USAID Education Programming

Missions are encouraged to incorporate climate change mitigation, adaptation, and/or resilience for education into activity design and implementation. Some programming examples include:

GLOBAL

Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) is an international grants program that funds scientists and engineers in developing countries who partner with U.S. government-funded researchers to address global development challenges. Technical areas include water resource management, climate change, biodiversity, agriculture, energy, disaster mitigation, nutrition, maternal and child health, and infectious diseases. Read more

INDONESIA

After a field survey, two elementary schools in West Kendari were identified as being prone to flooding. In response, USAID conducted a series of training activities on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, held workshops on participatory disaster risk assessment, and established Disaster Preparedness Units for the schools. Read more

KENYA

Youth and education specialists are working more closely with colleagues from agriculture, environment and biodiversity, and economic growth to build a more strategic and holistic approach to skills development, employment and economic growth, and establish collaborations with employers and industry. 

MOZAMBIQUE

USAID's Global Development Alliance with the Gorongosa Project (GP) supported an integrated conservation and development program in six post-conflict districts. Girls clubs offer tutoring on topics including literacy, numeracy, and environmental conservation, as well as career excursions to expose girls to various local institutions and wildlife safaris inside the park. By empowering girls with skills, information, services, and support by changing attitudes and behaviors of all in the community, girls will have more opportunities, stay in school, and be more empowered to contribute to the development of their communities.

NIGER

The USAID-funded project, Girma, started providing literacy and numeracy training for women, youth, and people with disabilities in January 2020.  The beneficiaries learned basic mathematics, and themes such as environment, agriculture, water and sanitation, in their native language. Read more

PAKISTAN

The Centers for Advanced Studies (CAS) project provided opportunities to 70 women for higher education in the energy and water sectors.

PHILIPPINES

Given that climate change is driving an increase in the number and severity of storms, floods, and drought, even young children need to learn to be prepared. USAID’s ABC+ project has started producing books for K-3 readers in the Philippines that will cover these topics. Read more

SRI LANKA

USAID's Safe, Disaster-Resilient Drinking Water to Flood and Drought Prone Areas activity provided safe and clean drinking water to 41 rural schools. Having a water source at schools encouraged more girls to attend school and continue their education.

For guidance on the use of Basic Education and Higher Education funds, see USAID Policy: Program Cycle Implementation and Operational Guidance (p. 23-29).