Role of ESD in Fighting Climate Change: ICEE Conference in India

Please see below information we received from Susan Kingsbury of Environment Canada regarding the International Conference on Environmental Education held recently in India with a summary of the discussion, particularly as it relates to Education for Sustainable Development and Climate Change. There are also important attachments.--Roger

ICEE Conference in India: Comments on ESD

Hi everyone. Here are some comments from our representative from our New Delhi embassy who attended this conference. Chuck Hopkins was also there and, as per the comments below, "gave a well received" presentation. It appears also that Canada's Report to UNECE and UNESCO on Indicators of ESD, that was first shared at the Belgrade meeting in October, was again well received. Key URLs are also included.
Please note that the attached document "Chair's Summary" won't print. However, you will be able to read it on the screen. Once it has been fixed then I will send it to you again.

I hope you find this information useful.

Subject: DELHI0596: Shifting Paradigms - The Role of Education for Sustainable Development in the Fight Against Climate Change

Summary: The 4th International Conference on Environmental Education (ICEE), held in Ahmedabad, India, succeeded in achieving international consensus that education for sustainable development, in its broadest sense, must be at the forefront of the urgent global effort to combat climate change. Despite having only two Canadians (from DELHI and York University) present at the conference, Canada's participation (see para 4) served to raise awareness and interest in our national and provincial/territorial efforts to enhance education for sustainable development in Canada.


Mainstreaming ESD into the Global Climate Change Agenda

2. From November 24 - 28, 2007, an impressive array of international policy-makers, educators, youth, civil society and private sector representatives assembled in Ahmedabad, India, for the 4th International Conference on Environmental Education (ICEE). Following a decade after the 3rd ICEE in Thessaloniki, Greece, the conference and its theme of education for sustainable development (ESD) took on a new spirit of urgency as speakers drew important linkages between ESD and global efforts to combat climate change and environmental disasters. Presenters noted the fact that this was the first ICEE to have a plenary session devoted entirely to "Addressing Climate Change Concerns", with high-profile Indian experts on climate change such as Dr. R.K. Pachauri (Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and Dr. Sunita Narain (Director, Centre for Science and Environment), and other respected international experts. A representative from the UN Commission for Sustainable Development (UNCSD) noted that UNCSD would be coordinating a policy roundtable on the margins of the UNFCCC meetings in Bali in an effort to integrate ESD objectives into any post-2012 climate change agreement.
3. The attached "Ahmedabad Declaration 2007: A Call to Action", issued on November 28, effectively summarized the underlying principle of most discussions at this conference - that in order to combat the urgent challenge of climate change in our world today, we must radically redefine our traditional relationships between society, the environment and the economy, and instill sustainable practices into every aspect of human activity. In order to achieve this paradigm shift, ESD must be front and centre in our respective national environmental agendas. All participants stressed that while ESD is perceived by many to be a marginal issue, it must be mainstreamed into broader dialogues on sustainability and economic development, effectively taking ESD beyond the classroom to educate politicians, policy-makers and publics. UNESCO and UNEP officials underscored the need to fulfill the vision of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) and seek greater international collaboration on these issues. Professor Charles Hopkins (York University UNESCO and UNU Chair in ESD), gave a well-received presentation on "The Road to Ahmedabad" at the conference's inaugural launch, which detailed the history of global ESD efforts to date and pointed to the longstanding involvement of Canadian educators in this field.

Government Session

4. Against the backdrop of the UNDESD call to governments around the world to strengthen their focus on sustainable development through education, the Government of Australia took a leadership role in coordinating an ICEE Government Session. This focussed session brought together representatives from a number of different governments (largely from Ministries of Environment or Ministries of Education) to share their experiences, challenges and future visions for ESD in their respective countries. DELHI/Hippola attended this session on behalf of the Government of Canada and delivered the attached speech, prepared by HQ colleagues, on Canada's approach to ESD. International counterparts were appreciative of the lessons learned through Canada's experience, as outlined in our October 2007 Report to UNECE and UNESCO on Indicators of ESD. Colleagues, particularly those from the Government of Australia, were especially interested in Canada's efforts to preserve and apply the knowledge of our indigenous groups in the context of ESD. Contact information for Australian colleagues, along with other materials distributed at the conference, will be provided separately to GDS/Schmidt. Australia's national ESD action plan can be found at:

5. Presentations were made by some 25 other countries, as well as by UNEP and UNESCO officials. Common challenges faced by governments included:
- decreasing education budgets and lack of funding for ESD initiatives;
- poor differentiation between environmental education (as a standalone subject) and education for sustainable development (which aims to mainstream environmental and sustainability considerations into curricula, government policy and business practice);
- educators intimidated by the false notion that they must become environmental experts in order to promote ESD;
- the need for pluralistic ESD approaches to accommodate regional, cultural, and linguistic diversity.
All agreed that UNESCO should play a leading role in creating a more formal international network of governments working on ESD (beyond the current regional groupings such as UNECE). Several governments shared stories of some of their more innovative and successful national ESD activities. Some of their presentations, along with plenary session and working group presentations/summaries, are available on the 4th ICEE website:

6. At the end of this three-day session, Peter Woods, Chief Information Officer, Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Government of Australia, provided a Chair's Summary of the ICEE Government Session (see attached). Representatives of participating governments agreed to take back to their governments, for further consideration, the following suggested follow up actions:

  • All countries should identify ways in which they can improve their current ESD performance, acknowledging the immediacy of the sustainability issues facing the world, in particular climate change. Areas of focus should include current decision-makers in all areas of society; "educating the educators" in ESD; promoting holistic approaches to sustainability education in education institutions, particularly schools; and the development of appropriate indicators.
  • All countries should give greater priority to education as an effective tool to achieve lasting change in people's lifestyle and organisational practices, in support of sustainability.
  • All countries should seek to integrate their education activities with other measures adopted by governments in order to maximise the prospects of change towards sustainability.
  • Countries in a position to do so should identify ways in which they can work with other countries which are less able to implement effective national ESD policies and programs.
  • Consistent with its UNDESD charter, UNESCO should facilitate wider distribution and greater access to work already done by countries and regions, e.g. the work done by the UNECE, the Asia Pacific and other regions of the world.
  • UNESCO should facilitate a process of bringing together interested countries from different regions to identify in more detail practical ways in which countries and regions can work together, including the development of national ESD policy frameworks, pilot programs and demonstration projects.
2007-11-27_ICEE_Ahmedabad_-_Govt_Session_CANADA_Speech.doc70.5 KB
2007-12-27_ICEE_Ahmedabad_-_Govt_Session_Chair_s_Summary.pdf118.37 KB