COP Reflection and Educator Takeaways

By Leia Lowery, TCI Deputy Executive Director and Head of Programs and Partnerships

As my first COP ends, I want to reflect a little on what I have learned and how I have been inspired. 

Leia (Deputy Executive Director and Head of Programs and Partnerships) and Javan (Policy Manager) in Egypt!

COP is overwhelming in many ways, the number of people, the amount of stimulation every day — all day — trying to find your way in a new country, a new space, and having never done this before; learning the ropes as well as simply just learning where rooms were. Despite the number of times I got lost, and it was many, or the nights I went to bed past 2 am because it took until 10:30 pm to get to dinner (!) – I am still leaving here in awe. 

I am leaving here knowing that there are people across this globe facing the effects of climate change right now. I leave knowing that there are passionate youth willing to spend time trying to meet with leaders to plead for timely action. There are leaders seeking ways to find common ground and ultimately realizing that we are all inextricably linked together by our humanity and our earth. 

“It is humbling and only leaves me knowing that I am in the right place at the right time and that together, in collaboration, empathy, understanding, and tenacity, we will solve this crisis, but only if we do it together.”

COP 27
TCI’s Egypt Delegation with TCI Advisor, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe

Starting out and just learning the myriad of acronyms was my first feat. There was YOUNGO- a network of youth-focused NGOs engaged in international climate change policies and actions within the UNFCCC and the UN. There was RINGO- Research and Independent NGOs, BINGO- Business and Industry NGOs, and ENGO-Environmental NGOs- You can see how this could get confusing.  

Until I found ECOS- the UN Climate Education, Communication, and Outreach Stakeholders community- is a network of networks that aims to bridge party and non-party stakeholders to advance Action for Climate Empowerment. Then I realized I was where I was meant to be. From their website, you can see that the ECOS Community advocates for: 

  1. Climate Education- lifelong learning and climate literacy
  2. Climate Communication- Information sharing and stakeholder interaction
  3. Climate Outreach- inspiring innovative ideas and actions through meaningful messages
  4. Climate Participation- including stakeholder voice as part of collaborative, pluralistic climate governance.
  5. Climate Training- to improve capacity in any and all relevant areas of climate science and policy, especially in education and lastly
  6. Climate Engagement and Empowerment- promoting activities to increase awareness and mobilize action.

After going to their briefings and many workshops in pavilions supporting education as a significant part of mitigation to climate change, I started to see where TCI and our educators can play an essential role in reaching our climate change goals. Being at COP convinced me more that we need global climate education to gather local knowledge, empower all people, and support localized action to create the political will to invest in solutions and make meaningful progress toward saving our planet.

Three big takeaways from COP27

  1. Bottom-up or Grassroots movements are gaining traction, and education is one of the key players in this movement. This year we saw the first Climate Literacy Hub with daily and education-focused events across all pavilions; it looks like it will take a more prominent role in future COP negotiations.
  2. Loss and Damages, referred to as reparations, were finally included in the work plan. While logistics still need to be negotiated, this COP took the first steps in helping developing nations facing unprecedented effects of climate change get help from the developed countries who contributed the most to the issue.
  3. Education is more complex than just getting climate education in schools. It is also about providing safe and secure education in the context of climate change damages. Many school buildings suffered damage from climate change-induced weather events, losing school days due to heat events or schools becoming community disaster relief locations. With schools touching nearly every community in every region around the world, it holds that this untapped power to drive action is gaining traction. In an announcement made at COP, there will be a day dedicated to education next year in Dubai! Embedding education into our negotiations as a way to elevate the political will to invest in solutions will be vital to making progress on this crisis.

So keep on keeping on. As an educator, I am thrilled that education is becoming a common thread and can potentially be a primary mitigation strategy to solve the climate crisis. It makes sense- we can’t fight what we don’t know or aren’t aware of, we cannot create solutions for that which we don’t understand, and we can’t work toward a future we aren’t trained for; all of these things take education. As educators, we are fully invested in education being vital to a better future. As COP28 approaches, how can we support global climate education to build climate change knowledge, empathy, local empowerment, and political will? I will leave with this quote which I have been reminded of plenty these past two weeks: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X