President Biden promised that his administration would take an aggressive role in combating climate change. Although still early in his presidency, there is evidence to suggest that it will be at the forefront of this administration’s agenda. He has committed to rejoining the Paris Agreement and is reviewing the standards protecting communities, water sources, and air quality. The Biden Administration has set a goal to have a net-zero emission economy by 2050. But the question is: How do we get there?
The Executive Order to combat climate change includes the following bold claims:
• The United States government will exercise its leadership to make climate considerations an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security
• Both significant short-term global emission reductions and net-zero global emissions by mid-century – or before – are required to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.
• Commit to conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, States, Territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation.
• Formalize a commitment to make environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency by directing federal agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.
• Build a stronger, more resilient nation.
While this order certainly advances the US’ climate agenda it does not incorporate or account for an education plan that focuses on climate change and how to prepare students with 21st-century skills that will enable them to make informed decisions and be capable of participating in a rapidly evolving world. If we want to create a more resilient nation, there is a need to prepare and educate our citizens from a young age about the causes and effects of climate change and their role in combating it. Creating a cross-sector agenda that includes the Department of Education is at the center of this action plan, and many organizations are reaching out to the Biden Administration to encourage them to take action.
President Biden has budgeted $102.8 billion for education in his $1.5 Trillion Budget Request, which can be used towards environmental literacy tools for students. With this budget, we would see an increase of 40.8% in education spending. (NPR.org) This increased budget, as well as the $14 billion increase allocated for fighting climate change, can serve students by providing funding for teachers for their basic classroom needs, while also meeting the need for resources to implement environmental literacy and justice campaigns across all grade levels.
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), wrote a letter to the Biden Administration encouraging them to establish a joint federal and civil society effort based on their strategic framework (ACE Strategic Framework). ACE has created its national planning framework with the support of a broad coalition of partners with the goal of preparing the United States to enter the Paris Agreement. The need for a community-focused approach to climate action is the main foundation of the ACE framework.
If the Biden Administration were to utilize the community-focused approach of the ACE framework and incorporate the Department of Education into their climate change plan, we can begin to work on tackling climate change from the ground up. Without support from the Department of Education, teachers are left to their own devices, which often include limited support and resources to create a curriculum that supports climate action. As noted by author Christina Kwauk,
“86% of teachers think climate change should be taught in classrooms, yet only 42% actually teach it.”
As the Biden Administration has made the call to acknowledge and support environmental justice throughout the nation, it is also important to recognize the connection between environmental justice and environmental literacy. In order to create a generation prepared to fight climate change, they need to have a fundamental understanding of not only the global repercussions of climate change but also the effects that climate change has on the communities they reside in. We recently spoke to youth activist Isha Clarke who mirrored this sentiment, mentioning that using the environment as a multi-disciplinary lens to highlight and provide context around injustices facing students’ communities will reach students and inspire action.
At Green Guardians, our motto is “environmental literacy, community action”, which directly correlates with the community-focused approach to environmental education. Our goal is to provide educators and their students with the tools and connections needed to create an education system with environmental literacy as the foundation across all subjects and grade levels.
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Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) —climate education, training, public awareness, public participation, access to information, and international cooperation— as embedded in the UNFCCC Article 6 and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, can accelerate climate action and advance people-centered climate policies through increasing public awareness, building local capability, enhancing information sharing, encouraging innovation and beneficial behavioral norms, and promoting ongoing engagement.
The Biden administration on Friday unveiled a $1.5 trillion partial budget request for the next fiscal year, calling for increases across a range of domestic programs aimed at fighting poverty and climate change while keeping defense spending relatively flat.
The United States and the world face a profound climate crisis. We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents. Domestic action must go hand in hand with United States international leadership, aimed at significantly enhancing global action.
Their mission is to unlock the power of the education sector to be a force toward climate action, solutions, and environmental justice to help prepare children and youth to advance a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable society.
ACE Framework writes in support of Article 12 of the Paris Agreement: Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), which seeks to inform, engage, and empower the public to join in finding and implementing solutions to the climate crisis.
President Biden Takes Executive Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Create Jobs, and Restore Scientific Integrity Across Federal Government.