Home » Aida Salamanca on climate education, creative innovation & youth climate action 

Aida Salamanca on climate education, creative innovation & youth climate action 

by Madaline Dunn

In the climate change fight, climate education, creative innovation and youth all have a pivotal role to play in driving forward action.

The British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, aims to support this globally through arts and culture, education and the English language. 

As the dust settles on COP, ESG Mena speaks to Aida Salamanca, Country Director, UAE, British Council, to hear about how the organisation is supporting climate education, bridging the green skills gap, and the role and impact of arts and culture in climate action. 

Aida, tell me about the British Council’s participation at COP, and your key takeaways, lessons learned, and thoughts on the Global Stocktake outcome.

The British Council played a proactive role in the COP, underscoring the pivotal roles of education, youth engagement, and Arts and Culture in tackling climate challenges. 

Noteworthy insights encompass the crucial integration of green skills, backing youth-driven endeavours, and harnessing cultural inputs for sustainable resolutions. 

Takeaway lessons underscore the imperative for cooperative actions and inventive methodologies in climate action. 

In light of the Global Stocktake results, our steadfast dedication to global partnerships, education, and cultural undertakings remains unwavering as indispensable facets in confronting the ever-evolving climate crisis.

What about your research findings presented at COP28?

At COP28, we presented pivotal research findings with a focus on advancing climate change education in schools and communicating key priorities to governments and educational organisations for bolstering sustainability education. 

Our research delved into the intersection of cultural relations and climate action, examining topics such as the Youth Strike for Climate, innovative educational strategies for addressing the climate crisis, and the interpretation of climate change in the digital age. 

Additionally, we shared insights on prominent arts and climate trends in the UK, offering a comprehensive perspective on artistic approaches and best practices. 

Lastly, our research on the impact of the Climate Connection program involved global discussions with partners and stakeholders, underscoring our dedication to fostering a collaborative response to climate challenges.

Education has a central role in climate action. What is the landscape looking like in this regard, what are some of the main challenges around building climate and sustainability literacy regionally, and what is the British Council doing to address these challenges?

Education plays a pivotal role in climate action, and the British Council is strategically addressing regional challenges in building climate and sustainability literacy. 

Recognising the hurdles in integrating climate education, we’ve implemented targeted initiatives.

Our Challenge Grants for Young People focus on developing leadership skills, empowering grassroots solutions to regional climate challenges. In parallel, the Climate Skills program empowers local organisations, equipping 12,000 youth with essential green skills for a just transition.

Within schools, our resources and training initiatives directly confront the challenge of embedding climate education regionally. By providing teachers and students with valuable tools, we contribute to fostering a more informed and environmentally conscious generation. The World Climate Simulation events we organise offer students hands-on experience in UN negotiations, bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Our commitment extends to supporting early-career researchers through scholarships and partnerships. This approach addresses collaborative challenges in climate research, reinforcing our dedication to cultivating a new generation of informed global citizens ready to contribute to sustainable solutions.

As we transition to the green economy, there is a widening green skills gap. How can we bridge the gap, and how is the British Council helping to facilitate this?

Addressing the widening green skills gap is imperative for the transition to a sustainable economy, and the British Council is actively contributing to this crucial endeavour. 

Our partnership opportunities with technical and vocational education colleges worldwide serve to strengthen green skills and renewables training. Noteworthy collaborations, such as those between colleges in the UK and Morocco, incorporate innovative tech-based approaches like Go-Pro-enabled delivery and VR classrooms.

In addition to these efforts, our initiatives extend to schoolteachers, impacting approximately 3.4 million students on climate topics through climate resources, training, and partnership opportunities. English teachers in 120 countries have been supported in embedding climate issues into lessons through over 50,000 training sessions, resource interactions, and podcast engagements.

Beyond schools, our opportunities assist education providers in establishing sustainable international research collaborations focused on climate and environmental research. Through fostering partnerships and integrating cutting-edge approaches, the British Council plays a vital role in narrowing the green skills gap and preparing individuals for the jobs of the future.

During COP28, the role of youth in climate action was heavily emphasised. Tell me about how the British Council is supporting youth to drive forward change.

The British Council is dedicated to empowering the next generation of climate leaders globally. Our initiatives engage youth affected by climate change in research and projects addressing just transition, green skills, and promoting gender equality, equity, and leadership in combating climate challenges. In collaboration with partners like YOUNGO, we actively involve young people in climate solutions, positioning them as future leaders. 

Our support extends to global youth networks, including the Climate Youth Negotiators, providing training and platforms during COP28. Through Challenge Grants for Young People, we amplify youth-led climate projects from COP26, facilitating impactful community interventions at the grassroots level. The British Council is committed to nurturing youth passion and potential, ensuring their active participation in driving positive change amid climate challenges.

Finally, can you share your thoughts on the role of the arts in finding creative & holistic solutions to the intensifying climate crisis?

Arts and culture play a crucial role in addressing the intensifying climate crisis by fostering creative and holistic solutions. Through our culture and development initiatives, including Creative Commissions, Circular Culture, and Making Matters, the British Council supports sustainable practices on a global scale. Notable projects such as ’12 Poems for 12 Days of COP28′ and ‘Dissolving Earths Creative Commission’ seamlessly integrate science, arts, and humanities to raise awareness and drive collective climate action. 

Our culture and climate summits, sustainability charters, and toolkits further emphasise the pivotal role of the cultural sector in steering sustainable change worldwide. Adding to our impactful narrative, the Coalition of Friends of Culture-based Climate action stands as a testament to global collaboration, with 34 Ministers of Culture, including the British Council, endorsing this initiative.

Moreover, COP28 witnessed a pivotal moment as 38 countries, championed by the UK since COP26, committed to the UNESCO Greening Education Partnership. This significant declaration, aligning with a common agenda for education and climate change, emphasises the integration of climate education into Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans.

In the realm of youth engagement, the Youth Stocktake Report, officially launched by YOUNGO with support from the Youth Climate Champion, represents a groundbreaking analysis. This report marks the first comprehensive examination of youth involvement in the UNFCCC process, offering a roadmap for enhancing youth inclusion and steering the trajectory of climate action towards a more inclusive and sustainable future. 

Adding depth to our initiatives, our Cultural Protection Fund continually supports efforts to protect cultural heritage at risk, fostering sustainable opportunities for economic and social development. Concurrently, our latest research initiative, ‘Climate Change Impacts on Cultural Heritage,’ further strengthens our commitment by exploring both tangible and intangible cultural heritage linked to climate change, incorporating hazard diagrams and trends analysis.”

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