On 16 June 2022, the Council of the European Union (EU) adopted a Recommendation on learning for the green transition and sustainable development. The Recommendation is a key policy statement highlighting the crucial role of education and training in working towards the goals of the European Green Deal. The accompanying Staff Working Document serves as a handbook for practitioners, providing relevant examples and best practices from across Europe.
Climate change and biodiversity loss require decisive and ambitious action in a range of policy areas. This includes education and training, which must support Europe’s transition towards a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable way of living and working. Sustainability should be part of the entire spectrum of education and training, including for curricula and professional development for educators, as well as buildings, infrastructure and operations.
Education and training must respond to the challenges and realities of the 21st century, meet learners’ needs and help them to deal with the feelings of stress and anxiety experienced in the face of a planetary crisis. To equip learners with the competences needed to shape a more sustainable economy and society, learning for the green transition needs to be transformative and interdisciplinary.
It needs to focus on cognitive, practical and socio-emotional skills and go beyond mere awareness of the climate crisis, helping learners to develop a sense of agency. Education should equip learners of all ages with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to take action for more sustainability and to understand and participate in the decision-making processes necessary to enact lasting, structural change.
A roadmap for a systemic shift in education
As things stand, learning for the green transition is not yet a systemic feature of education and training policy in the EU. Many young people believe that school is failing to give them an adequate understanding of climate change and sustainability.
The newly adopted Recommendation provides a roadmap for Member States on supporting learning and teaching for the green transition and sustainable development in all phases of education and training. It calls on Member States to:
- make learning for the green transition and sustainable development a priority in education and training policies and programmes
- provide all learners with opportunities to learn about the climate crisis and sustainability in both formal education (for example, schools and higher education) and non-formal education (such as extra-curricular activities and youth work)
- mobilise national and EU funds to invest in green and sustainable equipment, resources and infrastructure
- support educators in developing their knowledge and skills to teach about the climate crisis and sustainability, including dealing with ‘eco-anxiety’ in their students
- create supportive learning environments for sustainability that span all activities and operations by an educational institution and enable teaching and learning that is hands-on, interdisciplinary and relevant to local contexts
- actively involve students and staff, local authorities, youth organisations and the research and innovation community in learning for sustainability
Commission support for sustainability education
The European Commission will support the implementation of the Recommendation through peer learning and exchange on sustainability in education, including through a dedicated EU Working Group on this topic.
The Commission will develop resources for educators and policy-makers, including an online course for educators on whole-school actions on sustainability, which will run from September 2022 on the new European School Education Platform.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+, Horizon Europe and other funding EU programmes. To implement the actions outlined in the Recommendation, Member States can also draw on the new European competence framework on sustainability (GreenComp), which sets out the skills that all learners need to develop related to the environment and sustainability.
The Recommendation is based on a proposal put forward by the Commission in January 2022, after an in-depth consultation with policy-makers, teachers, youth organisations, social partners, researchers and the public.
The consultation clearly demonstrated that education and training have a key role to play in shifting European societies and economies towards a greener, sustainable and just future.
The proposal for a Council Recommendation was discussed by Member States under the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, before being adopted by all EU Member States.
Read the Council Recommendation on learning for the green transition and sustainable development
Staff Working Document accompanying the Council Recommendation on learning for the green transition and sustainable development