Education is vital tool to combat climate change, says UAE minister

Amna Al Shamsi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said it is everyone's responsibility to empower children to preserve the planet

A stage performance at the 12th World Environmental Education Congress in Abu Dhabi.  Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Climate change has no boundaries and education is a crucial way to reach every family and empower them to tackle it, a UAE minister has said.

Amna Al Shamsi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said it was everyone’s responsibility to empower children and educate others about what it takes to preserve the planet.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the World Environmental Education Congress in Abu Dhabi on Monday, Dr Al Shamsi underlined the importance of education in driving substantive change.

“Education has that power,” she said. “And it has that connectivity. It reaches every house [and] every family.”

Dr Al Shamsi was appointed to the post this month, taking over from Mariam Al Mheiri. Dr Al Shamsi said education and environmentalism go hand in hand.

“I still wear my education hat,” she said, referring to her previous role as assistant undersecretary of the care and capacity building sector at the Ministry of Education.

“For any leader, whether it is in the environmental sector or private sector or in civil society, we all have to wear those two hats – educators and environmentalists.”

She recalled the UAE's introduction of a green education strategy in its schools, with a focus on knowledge, skills and values.

She said it was important that climate issues are not seen as isolated from everyday life.

“If you instil it as part of their [pupils'] values, it is going to live with them,” she said. “And it is not going to be something that is fun and good to try … and then they will forget about it.

“They are going to become tomorrow’s leaders and tomorrow’s decision-makers. We always have to believe that action and change starts from education.”

The congress runs until Friday and aims to highlight the importance of environmental education in shaping a greener tomorrow.

Ministers, officials, climate advocates, campaigners, youth champions and representatives of more than 70 countries will meet in Abu Dhabi throughout the week to improve understanding of how education can help to preserve the world’s natural resources for future generations.

A youth conference runs in parallel to empower the environmental leaders of tomorrow.

In her opening speech on Monday, Shaikha Al Dhaheri, secretary general of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, which co-organised the event, said the current generation of humans could be the last with the ability to address climate change.

“Our generation is perhaps the first to feel its full, unbridled force and, possibly, the last that can effectively address it,” she said.

Ms Al Dhaheri said biodiversity loss reduced the resilience of ecosystems that support us, and called pollution a “silent killer”.

“The very by-products of our civilisation have become the toxins of our time,” she said.

But she pointed to the ban on single use plastic bags and soon to be launched waste management behavioural campaign as signs of hope.

“There lies a beacon of hope – us,” she said. “Yes, each one of us holds a piece of the puzzle to a sustainable future.”

The conference also heard speeches from Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan, president and chief executive of the UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators; Razan Al Mubarak, president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature; and Sheikha Dr Shamma bint Mohammad, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan Cultural and Educational Institutions.

The event is running at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre until Friday.

Updated: January 30, 2024, 3:17 AM