Ahead of the UN Climate Summit COP26, Nadia Whittome MP will today lead UK Parliament’s first-ever debate on climate education. The Westminster Hall Debate, tabled in partnership with students aged 13-18 from the Teach the Future campaign, aims to examine sustainability and climate education in the UK curriculum.

The 90-minute debate marks the beginning of parliamentary talks about the current state of climate education in the UK curriculum. MPs are expected to discuss a range of topics, including disparities in climate education around the world, education for girls and women, ensuring the right climate change information is included in the UK education syllabus, and how to education on green jobs to upskill the workforce.

Nadia Whittome MP, comments: “Young people today are growing up in a world that will be increasingly defined by the climate crisis. If our education system isn’t teaching us the knowledge and practical skills to help prevent climate change and deal with its consequences, then it is failing us. The inclusion of sustainability and climate change across the curriculum is essential to building a resilient, net-zero society.”

Teach the Future, a youth-led campaign by students from all four UK nations, has been leading a UK-wide petition asking the government to implement climate education across the curriculum. More than 25,000 people have signed the petition and other key figures have supported the call.

Scarlett Westbrook, a 17-year-old organising with Teach the Future and UKSCN, comments: “Just five days before COP26, this debate presents a huge opportunity for the UK to become a global leader on climate education.   Climate change education is inadequate.  

“Our approach to climate education urgently needs to change: the current curriculum is failing young people and causing escalating levels of climate anxiety. This is a climate emergency. The Government need to help build a global youth workforce equipped with the knowledge and tools to drastically reduce emissions and halt the loss of nature.”

Teach the Future has three demands for MPs in the debate:

  1. Teach students about the climate emergency by imbedding climate change throughout the curriculum, and by upskilling teachers and educations to be able to deliver this.
  2. Include green skills in vocational courses to make sure that students are equipped with the skills to help them tackle climate change and transition to a carbon neutral future.
  3. Make education building carbon neutral by reducing caron emissions to net-zero standards and adopting sustainable practices within the public educational estate.

Earlier this year, the largest study ever conducted into the effects of the climate crisis on the mental health of young people revealed nearly half (45%) of young people globally feel climate anxiety negatively affects their daily life. It also found that almost two-thirds (64%) of young people around the world believe governments are not doing enough to protect them from climate change.

In 2018, one survey found that 42% of pupils feel that have learnt a little, hardly anything or nothing about the environment at school and 68% would like to know more. Research by Teach the Future found that 70% of teachers feel they haven’t received adequate training to educate students about climate change.