The Climate Crisis Disrupts the Education of 40 Million Children Every Year

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Girl with school bag affected by climate change

United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Issues Position Paper Addressing the Climate, Environment, and Biodiversity Crises in and Through Girls’ Education.

The Position Paper calls for continued support to ‘strengthen Education Cannot Wait’s role in ensuring continuity of education for all in the face of increasing extreme weather events and emergencies.’


The United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) issued a ground-breaking Position Paper today that draws clear linkages between the climate crisis and global education crisis.

The Position Paper calls for continued support to “strengthen Education Cannot Wait’s role in ensuring continuity of education for all in the face of increasing extreme weather events and emergencies.”

Worldwide, the climate crisis is impacting the education of 40 million children every year. Globally, 222 million vulnerable girls and boys are impacted by conflict, climate-induced disasters, forced displacement and protracted crises and are in need of urgent education support according to Education Cannot Wait, the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Climate-induced disasters affect children’s ability to go to or stay in school. And, even when children stay in school, climate and environmental changes – such as rising temperatures, droughts and floods – affect their ability to learn. These negative impacts on learning exacerbate cycles of poverty and inequality and drives conflict for increasingly scarce natural resources.

“Education is an assumed, but hugely undervalued, component of responses to climate change impacts, and efforts to mitigate and adapt to them. It is essential for reducing vulnerability, improving communities’ resilience and adaptive capacity, identifying innovations, and for empowering individuals to be part of the solution to climate and environmental change,” according to the Position Paper.

Climate change and girls’ education are two of the UK’s primary international development objectives, aligning closely with ECW’s focus on climate change, displacement and girls’ education.

Nevertheless, “too often climate and environmental change is viewed in isolation from education,” according to the paper. “If we want to effectively tackle these priority issues, we must better understand how they are linked and find integrated solutions.”

“Education must be put front and center of the climate agenda. By investing in girls’ education in places like Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and other countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis, we are investing in an end to hunger, and vicious cycles of displacement and violence. Education is also the single most powerful investment we can make to ensure a climate-resilient future for generations to come. As one of Education Cannot Wait’s founders and top-contributors, I am deeply grateful to the United Kingdom for the continued and bold support,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

The FCDO Position Paper calls for a paradigm shift in how education is viewed in relation to the climate crisis. Where education fosters positive cycles of improved resilience and ability to adapt to and mitigate the severe impacts of climate change.

The value of investing in girls’ education is a key component of this paradigm shift. “Girls’ education is a human right and a game changer for driving poverty reduction, and building prosperous, resilient economies and peaceful, stable societies. It has huge, undervalued, potential to contribute to tackling climate and environmental change. Girls’ secondary education has been identified as the most important socioeconomic determinant in reducing vulnerability to climate change.”

The United Kingdom is the second largest donor to Education Cannot Wait, with US$159 million in funding to date. Supported through leading civil society organizations, the Send My Friend To School Campaign is calling on the UK Government to pledge £170 million in additional funding to Education Cannot Wait.

The Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference on 16-17 February 2023 in Geneva offers a key moment for donors, the private sector and high-net-worth individuals to make substantial pledges to Education Cannot Wait, and deliver on the promises outlined in both the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.

Note to Editors

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. We support quality education outcomes for refugee, internally displaced and other crisis-affected girls and boys, so no one is left behind. ECW works through the multilateral system to both increase the speed of responses in crises and connect immediate relief and longer-term interventions through multi-year programming. ECW works in close partnership with governments, public and private donors, UN agencies, civil society organizations, and other humanitarian and development aid actors to increase efficiencies and end siloed responses. ECW urgently appeals to public and private sector donors for expanded support to reach even more vulnerable children and youth.  The Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference, co-hosted by ECW and Switzerland, and co-convened with Colombia, Germany, Niger, Norway and South Sudan, will take place February 16-17, 2023, in Geneva. 


On Twitter, please follow: @EduCannotWait, @YasmineSherif1, @KentPage

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