World congress on environmental education discusses way ahead towards green societies

“To craft a more inclusive and sustainable future for all, we need greener economies, greener legislations, and most of all, we need greener societies,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on her video message at the opening ceremony of the ninth World Environmental Congress (WEEC) held in Vancouver, Canada on 9-15 September. “This calls for new ways of seeing the world, new ways of thinking and behaving as global citizens. This is why sustainability must start on the benches of schools.”

The WEEC is the largest international congress addressing education for environment and sustainable development, taking place biannually. The title of the 9th congress was “Culturenvironment: Weaving new connections”. The organizing committee proposed broad and inclusive topics on environmental and sustainability education with particular interest of the interplay among cultural and environmental factors this year.

The opening ceremony was inaugurated by the traditional welcome and acknowledgement with Elder Shane Pointe, together with the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Canada; Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa, Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Morocco ; David Zandvliet from the Institute for Environmental Learning, Canada and Mario Salomone from the WEEC Network.

This congress also marked 40 years from the world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education, organized in Tblisi, Georgia in 1977 by UNESCO in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The panel session, moderated by Milt McClaren, Royal Roads University, Canada, reflected the achievements made since Tblisi and upcoming challenges around environment and sustainability. It included Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability, York University, Canada; Ekaterine Grigalava, Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia; Tamar Aladashvili, Department of Environmental Policy and International Relations, Georgia; Julia Heiss, UNESCO Team Leader of Education for Sustainable Development; Elliott Harris, UNEP.

UNESCO also introduced the publication “Education for Sustainable Development Goals” in aworkshop organized by UNEP, and the work for monitoring and evaluation of SDG Target 4.7 in a paper session organized by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network.