Years of climate activism and advocacy at the policy level are on the cusp of bearing fruit in 2021. President-elect Biden will reinstate U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement and place environmental justice at the heart of U.S. climate policy and action. The U.K. presidency of COP26 will mobilize countries to raise their climate ambition, including a focus on climate and environmental literacy.

As discussions about climate change and education begin to shift from policy advocacy to policy implementation, stakeholders and leaders, including those in the Biden transition team, will be looking for resources and frameworks to diagnose, strategize, and plan for the urgent reorientation of their education systems to carbon neutrality and climate literacy. While addressing the carbon footprint of education infrastructure is important (e.g., the energy efficiency of school buildings or food waste), the harder task at hand is to ensure that teaching and learning across all curricular areas of K-12, higher education, and career and technical education are oriented not just toward achieving climate literacy, but also toward climate action and climate justice.

This task goes beyond curricular reform aimed at adding climate change and environmental concepts into existing curriculum. While an important step, such reformative change allows the education sector to continue to avoid confronting its underlying problem of purpose—that is, the purpose of a 21st century education system designed for the coal-powered days of the Industrial Revolution. Pressed with the urgency of runaway climate change and ecological collapse, the task of shifting from advocating for education for climate action to implementing education for climate action will require policymakers to identify pathways to the deeper ontological transformation of education.

Read the full article about climate change in education by Christina Kwauk at Brookings.