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Post date: Thursday, 25 May 2023

Where's education in the Climate Change Commission’s second (draft) package of advice?

By Rachel Bolstad

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 Tapuwae

Chapter 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 – Transport

Chapter 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 Finance

Chapter 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 StrategyBut 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 Thank you for a succinct summary of how education is not featured in this Climate Change document. The Education Sector needs to be an intergral part of the change management process and can be. For the sector to provide feedback will be important going forward. Ngā mihi nui Cherie Taylor-Patel

It's intriguing and concerning to see how education seems to take a backseat in the Climate Change Commission's second package of advice. Education plays a vital role in empowering future generations to actively participate in the transition towards a low-emissions Aotearoa New Zealand. We need to ensure that our education systems are equipped to tackle the challenges posed by climate change and foster a mindset of sustainability and innovation. While the Commission's approach might have been to streamline recommendations, it's essential to recognise the transformative potential of education in shaping a resilient and climate-conscious society. I wonder if there are existing initiatives in the education sector that align with climate action, which might not have been explicitly mentioned in the report. Moreover, it would be helpful to hear about successful examples from other countries that have integrated climate education into their policies. Let's hope that future updates will address this gap and provide a more comprehensive outlook on how education can be a driving force for positive change in the fight against climate change. As individuals, we can also play a part by advocating for climate education and supporting initiatives that promote environmental awareness in our communities. Thanks, Matt

Kia Ora Matt Please be assured that within the education sector there are a wide range of education initiatives linked to learning about climate change. Approximately 20% of NZ schools are part of the Enviroschools programme. In our local area, we have a Te Tatai Ao project developing that links Matauranga Māori World Views to ecological citizen science and the local histories curriculum. Building ākongo knowledge of the impact of climate change and the solutions we can act on is all part of making learning relevant, purposeful and powerful.

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