Greening Education Hub at COP28 is a magnet for scientists

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP28) at Expo City in Dubai is attracting students, scientists and academics, especially from Africa, to a Greening Education Hub as a platform for educating first-time COP attendees – a laudable initiative, according to attendees as it will help empower the youth, in particular, during their two-week stay.

“First-time COP attendees always find it challenging to acquaint themselves and understand what goes on during the events. The introduction of the Greening Education Hub is a welcome innovation,” Idriss Adoum, country coordinator of Chad Global Biodiversity Youth Network, told University World News.

Launched by the ministry of education of the host country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in collaboration with UNESCO, the programme aims to not only educate young climate change actors, but also explore sustainability concepts and the different innovations presented by participating institutions during COP28.

“There is a great need to promote environmental sustainability practices in schools at all levels. Through this programme, young scientists, students and climate activists have a clear idea of what COP is all about,” Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, the UAE’s minister of education, said during a visit to the zone.

Four greening pillars

UNESCO says on its website that the programme is hosting a series of events, highlighting the essential role of education in getting every learner climate-ready, and the importance of addressing the impact of climate change and related displacement on the right to education.

The programme hinges on four pillars: greening schools, greening curriculum, greening capacities, and greening communities.

At the Greening Education Hub zone, visitors are showing a lot of interest and engage in various discussions and awareness sessions related to education and climate. Youths, student scientists, researchers and academics from Africa say the climate education concept at COP is in line with one of their expectations and recommendations during their pre-COP meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon, in November 2023 where they added their voices to urge leaders across the globe to accelerate actions to drive the fight against climate change.

“Building the capacities of students and other youth actors in the climate change drive is among some of the resolutions we took at the African Youth Forum on Adaptation Finance in Africa in Yaounde,” Idriss Adoum said.

Eco-friendly models showcased

Environment experts say education, especially for young students, is the key to driving climate-change solutions.

“Education can encourage people to change their attitudes and behaviour, it also helps them to make informed decisions. In the classroom, young people can be taught the impact of global warming and learn how to adapt to climate change. Education empowers all people, but especially motivates the young to take action,” according to the UN, the main organisers of COP28.

The Greening Education Hub at COP28 is in line with this view. It showcases eco-friendly school and university models and provides interactive displays to enhance awareness of sustainability concepts, visitors say.

“Visitors can learn about the role of educational institutions in adopting a comprehensive approach to enhancing climate adaptation capabilities. Students and academic authorities learn how to integrate climate, environmental and sustainable development topics into curricula,” Professor Muawia Shaddad of the department of physics at the University of Khartoum in Sudan and chairman of the advisory council of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance told University World News.

He says it was quite interesting to learn about successful models of partnerships between higher education institutions and communities to improve and support the sustainable development goals (SDGs). “Higher education must play a key role in pursuing the SDGs in Africa. University scientists should produce research that addresses societal and community needs,” he said.

Great place to meet peers

University students from Africa say the programme also provides opportunities to meet with their peers from elsewhere, collaborate on learning approaches, research and information exchange and dissemination to enhance capacity-building.

“It’s like a magnet for intellectuals to share knowledge and especially empower the youth during COP28. This provides the opportunity to interact with people sharing the same interests, improving knowledge about climate change,” said Amadou Bello, an environmental science research student at the University of Buea in Cameroon, interning with the Africa Coalition for Sustainable Energy and Access.

The COP climate education programme is in line with the call by Professor Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba, Nigerian academic and professor of agricultural economics, during the Yaounde youth conference, for young people to be given intellectual muscle to develop real influence to create a better future for all.

Africa, he said at the meeting, needs to train a new generation of agriculture and environment experts in all universities. “A new breed of young trainees and experts with a technological mindset is needed to move the continent’s agricultural production to a higher level.”

18,000 participants expected

The UAE ministry of education announced the organisation of approximately 46 dialogue sessions in collaboration with over 40 global partners, the news website ZAWYAreported on 1 December 2023. Over 30 events and projects on education and climate issues will be organised throughout the climate conference.

According to the report, the ministry anticipates hosting over 1,000 daily visitors and 500 students, surpassing an expected total attendance of 18,000 participants during the conference. “This underscores the global interest in the role of education in sustainability issues,” ZAWYA said.

The Greening Education Hub, environment experts say, adds to other innovations that characterise COP, especially in technology. “There is always a Startup Village, a great place to see environment-friendly innovation in technology in action. Participants from around the world, including Africa, come to show what they are working on, including ideas to promote a green economy,” Dr Linus Mofor, a senior environmental affairs officer in charge of energy, infrastructure, and climate change at the African Climate Policy Centre of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, told University World News.

Higher education experts in Africa have called on the need to transform universities and accelerate education to better drive SDGs on the continent. The African university community is determined to be part of a global solution to climate change. “African experts possess both the potential and the ambition to be a vital component of the global solution to climate change,” Shaddad said.