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COP27: climate compensation matters to int’l education, say campaigners

A handful of European countries have committed to paying reparations for the impact of climate change on low-carbon emission countries – a move that campaigners within the international education sector say is “particularly relevant” to the industry. 

Germany’s academic exchange network DAAD announced its plan to reach climate neutrality in its business operations. Photo: Unsplash

Greenhouse gas emissions associated with international student travel are comparable to the country of Jamaica's total annual emissions

“So many globally mobile students come from countries which are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global heating and yet have contributed so little to creating the problem,” said Ailsa Lamont, president of the Climate Action Network for International Educators

Climate justice has emerged as one of the defining debates at this year’s COP27 as nations including Austria, Belgium and Denmark pledged ‘loss and damage’ money – compensation for the impact of climate change, such as extreme weather events, on low-carbon emission countries by wealthier nations with significant carbon footprints.  

“The major receiving countries for international students also tend to be the same countries that have collectively contributed the most emissions historically. Perhaps we need to start thinking about what loss and damage might mean in the context of global education?” Lamont said. 

“We need to start thinking about what loss and damage might mean in the context of global education”

In recent years, there have been growing calls for the international education sector to address the environmental impact of student mobility. 

Research from Bristol University found that the level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with international student travel is comparable to the country of Jamaica’s total annual emissions, and may even exceed this. 

Earlier this week, German academic exchange service DAAD announced its plan to reach climate neutrality in its business operations by 2030, starting with addressing key emission sources, including its events and staff travel. 

“We at the DAAD not only want to reduce our own carbon footprint, we also want to further expand international cooperation among higher education institutions, academia and researchers in terms of climate protection and green transformation, and to continuously develop our funding to be eco-friendly,” said DAAD president Joybrato Mukherjee. 

The impact of climate change on access to education and the role of schools and institutions in tackling the crisis has been in focus at the ongoing COP27 conference, taking place in Egypt, with today’s activities centring on youth and future generations. 

“In my home country, Peru, we are already seeing the impacts of the climate crisis on education,” said Inés Yábar, global youth power manager at Restless Development, speaking at a side event. 

“There are an increasing number of floods that destroy homes and schools. Two years after a major flood in the northern region of Piura, 293 schools had not yet been rebuilt. 

“Less apparent were all the young people who are no longer going to school due to reduced crops in the Andes. Their parents can no longer afford to send them to school. Instead, the kids are staying home to help feed their families.”

Other speakers at COP27 reiterated the importance of educating students about environmental issues to address the crisis and empower young people, but a report released today by UNESCO found that, in around half of the 100 countries reviewed, there was no mention of climate change in their national curriculums. 

“We want really to mobilise, as much as possible, the international community to make climate justice through climate education a reality,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO assistant director-general for education, speaking at the conference.

CANIE is hosting a climate action week at the end of November to coincide with the end of COP27 which, Lamont said, will give organisers “time to digest what happens at COP and build that into our sessions”.

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