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Raising Youth Voices at COP21 Through the Climate Education and Literacy Initiative

Institutions are coming together to launch the #Youth4Climate – Road to COP21 campaign to raise the voice of youth in climate action.

In December 2014, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) launched the Climate Education and Literacy Initiative (CELI) to connect students and citizens with the best-available, science-based information about climate change. CELI emphasizes the importance of forming collaborations to help lift our Nation’s game in climate education and include all generations and sectors in tackling climate change.

As part of the CELI launch, Federal agencies and external organizations in the United States – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network, The Wild Center, Connect4Climate, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, Alliance for Climate Education, Climate Interactive, and Earth Day Network – committed to work to enhance youth engagement on climate change. And this past August, as part of OSTP’s “Back-to-School Climate Education Event,” another group of agencies and external organizations pledged their support to this important cause as well.

Students (and a teacher!) at OSTP’s “Back-to-School Climate Education Event” in August 2015.
Students (and a teacher!) at OSTP’s “Back-to-School Climate Education Event” in August 2015. (Photo credit: OSTP).

Many of these and other institutions have come together to form the #Youth4Climate – Road to COP21 campaign. Through this campaign, the hashtag #Youth4Climate is being used to coordinate events, activities, and related educational efforts – many of which fulfill CELI commitments – up to and during the climate negotiations at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris this December. For instance:

  • ASTC, The Wild Center, and the Alliance for Climate Education, in collaboration with DOE and NOAA, are hosting Youth Climate Summits throughout the United States and other areas of the world, directly engaging thousands of student leaders. The Youth Climate Summits provide an opportunity for high-school, college, and university students to gain leadership skills through educational conferences on climate change and sustainability, and to create Climate Action Plans for their own institutions.
  • Climate Generation will engage educators during COP21 as both learners and climate communicators for their schools and communities. A delegation of ten Education Ambassadors is being sent to the COP21 through Climate Generation’s Window into Paris program. These teachers, representing diverse subject areas, grade levels, educational settings, and geographic regions, will share their unique perspectives with thousands of students, educators, citizens, and policy leaders through daily blogs and webcasts.
  • Climate Interactive, in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management and University of Massachusetts Lowell Climate Change Initiative, has launched the World Climate Project, featuring a “serious game” that puts players into the role of international climate-solution negotiators.

You can join the conversation.

From November 12 to December 12, 2015, youth and educators are invited to participate by checking out for the full list of efforts aligned with #Youth4Climate. You’re also encouraged to share your questions, comments, and climate-education stories on social media using the hashtags #Youth4Climate, #COP21, and #ActOnClimate.

Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the United States is taking needed steps to cut carbon pollution, prepare for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to fight this global challenge. While a successful outcome in Paris will go a long way towards keeping the world on a path that minimizes the damage from climate change, it will not be a silver bullet. Continued progress beyond COP21 will depend on ensuring a climate-smart citizenry and a next-generation American workforce of city planners, community leaders, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs who understand the urgent climate-change challenge and are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and training to seek and implement solutions leading to a sustainable, growing and dynamic economy in the process. Expanding climate education and literacy is a key part of meeting this goal.

Frank Niepold is Climate Education Coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office and the Climate Education Interagency Working Group chair at the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Matthew Garcia is Senior Policy Strategist, Senior Policy Fellow for the Jobs Strategy Council at the Office of the Secretary at U.S. Department of Energy.

Laura Petes is Assistant Director for Climate Adaptation and Ecosystems at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.