The Climate Change Commission’s role is to provide independent advice to the Government about setting targets and plans for emissions reduction over successive time periods. Last year I looked for messages about education in the Commission’s first package of advice, and also in Government’s first Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) for 2022-2025.
The Climate Change Commission has now drafted its second package of advice which is geared towards the second emissions reduction period, 2026-2030. The public can give feedback on the Commission’s draft advice until June 20th.
The Commission’s advice is framed around three “parts”
It took me a while to understand how this package of advice is structured. There are 15 chapters framed into “three parts” which are worded slightly differently in different parts of the report. Some chapters just provide analysis and commentary, while others provide commentary and specific proposed recommendations.
Notice that, of the 19 specific recommendations the Commission is proposing, none relates to Part 3: “Enabling system transformation”. I'll return to this further below.
|Part 1: "Fundamentals for success" or "The context for change"||
Chapter 2 – The Task for the Second Emissions Budget
Chapter 3 – A Path to Net Zero
Chapter 4 – Emissions Pricing
Chapter 5 – Whāia Ngā TapuwaeChapter 6 – Maintaining and Enhancing Wellbeing through the Transition
|7 proposed recommendations|
|Part 2: Creating low emissions options||
Chapter 7 – Agriculture
Chapter 8 – Built Environment
Chapter 9 – Energy and Industry
Chapter 10 – Forests
Chapter 11 – TransportChapter 12 – Waste and Fluorinated Gases
|12 proposed recommendations|
|Part 3: “Enabling system transformation” or “Creating an enabling environment for lasting change”||
Chapter 13 – Research, Science, Innovation and Technology
Chapter 14 – Funding and FinanceChapter 15 – Circular Economy and Bioeconomy
|No proposed recommendations|
Education is mentioned only 5 times in the body of the report
Education is mentioned twice in Agriculture (Chapter 7), twice in Built Environment (Chapter 8), and once in Circular Economy and Bioeconomy (Chapter 15). Where education is discussed, the comments are about particular education and training needs for people and groups in these industries to transition to low-emissions practices. “Training” is mentioned a bit more often (12 times), most often in relation to workers in industry sectors such as building, farming, and technology. However, the education sector is not really discussed. Schools are mentioned 3 times, but not in relation to education (the comments about schools relate to population changes, energy efficiency, and carbon neutrality).
It's also interesting where education is not mentioned. There were two chapters where I really noticed that references to education were either missing or oblique.
Education is not discussed in Chapter 6: “Maintaining and enhancing wellbeing through the transition”.
This chapter discusses the wellbeing of current and future generations. It talks about young people facing greater lifetime risks from climate change, and notes rising levels of anxiety and poor mental health. It states that:
“enabling rangatahi, particularly Māori youth, to participate in the transitions to a low emissions Aotearoa New Zealand can have a positive impact on their mental health through increasing a sense of control, hopefulness, and resilience.” (p. 79)
This chapter briefly talks about supporting workers to train and retrain to change careers, but again, there is no mention of the education sector. Given that many rangatahi and young people are in learning settings of some kind – where they could be empowered to participate in the transition – this seems like a missed opportunity.
Education is obliquely referenced in Chapter 13: “Research, Science, Innovation, and Technology”.
This chapter says that “A strong research, science, innovation, and technology (RSI&T) system is fundamental to transform Aotearoa New Zealand to a thriving and resilient low emissions future” (p. 157). This chapter leans strongly into themes and findings from Te Ara Paerangi , a multi-year programme focused on the future of New Zealand’s RSI system. While Te Ara Paerangi documents do discuss (tertiary) education quite a bit, it’s still interesting that the education sector is only discussed obliquely in this part of the Commmission's advice.
Why is education barely visible in this advice?
It's clear that the Commission has aimed for a more “streamlined” approach with this package of advice. Pages 21-28 discuss a prioritisation framework the Commission used “to prioritise which elements of our advice to raise as proposed recommendations”. In an email they further explained to me that:
“Reflecting that there is already much climate action underway, this draft advice has fewer recommendations than our previous advice in 2021. We received feedback on our first advice that fewer recommendations would be more helpful. For context, there are around 400 Government actions underway as part the first emissions reduction plan, and a variety of other emissions reducing actions are being taken by others around Aotearoa New Zealand”.
Perhaps the Commission holds a view that there is already sufficient policy activity and change happening in the education sector to set the foundations for our transition to a low-emissions Aotearoa. Certainly, my previous blogs have identified areas where education is peppered across existing policy work including the ERP, National Adaptation Plan, and, presumably, the forthcoming Equitable Transitions Strategy. But do we yet have a clear, system-wide picture of how fit-for-purpose our education systems for a climate-changing, low-emissions future? I don’t think we do.
Education could be a key lever to “enabling system transformation”
It's disappointing that education in its broadest sense (learning across the lifespan, and in formal and and community-based settings) isn’t discussed as a key lever for “enabling system transformation”. Whether or not it needs to be elevated to the level of a specific recommendation from the Commission, I think it’s time to be more explicit in talking about how education in Aotearoa New Zealand can be deliberately planned, designed, and resourced to interweave with other economic, industrial, technological, research, science, innovation, and cultural levers for change that are needed. Even mapping out and tracking every bit of existing climate response work across the education sector would be a good start. I think this could help us have more informed, widespread, and forward-looking public conversations about education for a climate-changing, low-emissions Aotearoa New Zealand.
There are some good recommendations in the advice
Despite my critiques around the visibility of education, I do think there is a lot of good advice in here, including:
- The proposed recommendation that the scope of the Equitable Transitions Strategy be expanded to include both emissions reduction and adaptation to climate impacts. (p. 83) Given our lived realities, this small step towards de-siloing policy workstreams makes huge sense.
- The proposed recommendation against delaying/deferring climate action on the basis of tackling issues of social and economic equity. The Commission argues that these challenges must be tackled in parallel, and encourage[s] the Government to make use of existing mechanisms (levers and funding sources) that are already available, rather than delaying climate action (p. 87)
What do you think?
Have you looked at the advice? Do you see things you like, or think might be missing? Do you think it matters that education has such low visibility?
The Commission wants to hear your views. There's an online survey, but you don't have to answer all the questions. You can also just send your "one big thing" advice, if that's what you prefer.
Feedback closes on June 20th.
Kia Ora Rachel
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