Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO
The climate crisis is impacting every aspect of life. This includes the right to education, as millions of people are forced to leave their homes and livelihoods to escape from the consequences of environmental degradation.
In 2022 alone, 32.6 million people were internally displaced due to climate-related disasters, and the number is on the rise. On this year’s International Migrants Day, UNESCO is underlining the multiple barriers to education that climate-displaced migrants face. The absence of recognition in international law puts them in a particularly precarious situation, and their right to education is being violated.
How is climate change affecting education globally?
While the impact of the climate crisis on education is global, developing nations are most vulnerable. UNESCO’s latest global report on the impact of the changing climate displacement on the right to education reveals the extent of this crisis and guides policy-makers.
The study showcases how the impact of the climate crisis on education is diverse and multifaceted in different parts of the world. For example, physical barriers — such as damaged schools and disrupted access routes due to extreme weather events — hinder education. Economic barriers appear as livelihoods are affected, leading to poverty and an inability to cover educational costs. Linguistic and administrative obstacles also emerge as climate-displaced migrants relocate to regions without education in their mother tongue and face difficulties due to lost documents.
Populations displaced due to the climate
crisis are falling through the cracks.
Lack of data on climate-displaced people
A pressing issue is the lack of official data on climate-displaced people, due to challenges in distinguishing them from other migrants and the absence of coordinated data collection. Populations displaced due to the climate crisis are falling through the cracks and not being provided with the protection they need.
Through its global initiative, UNESCO recommends collecting and combining data on migration, climate, and education and proposes an international information system for tracking displacements. Countries must invest in data and monitoring, redefine internally displaced persons to include climate-induced displacement and implement intersectoral measures between education and disaster risk reduction.
Getting every learner climate-ready
To prevent further acceleration of the climate crisis, it is also urgent to transform the way climate and sustainability are taught in classrooms. The new Greening Education Partnership aims to accelerate action and get every learner climate-ready through greening schools, curriculum, teacher training and communities. This can bring about the personal and societal transformation that is necessary to change course and limit the number of climate crisis migrants in the future.