CO2 + t = nz

Posted in: Comment, Talks and Presentations

The blurb for the on-line workshop on Net Zero that I'll be contributing to next week says:

"Climate change education plays a critical role in driving action and solutions needed to achieve net zero emissions globally.  In this workshop, join educators from around the world to discuss innovative approaches to integrating net zero concepts into teaching and learning.  We’ll explore how attention to net zero can enhance climate change education and help learners think about pathways for a just transition to a carbon-neutral future. Attend this 2-hour virtual workshop with educators from across the globe to learn about and share perspectives on this important component of international climate policy and action."

The workshop has these objectives and assumptions:

Objectives: By the end of this workshop, it's expected that participants will be able to:

  • Explain the purpose of a net zero policy
  • Identify strategies for addressing net zero goals in the context of climate justice
  • Suggest actions learners can work toward as they engage in governance in their community
  • Explain the challenges and opportunities associated with net zero emission policies
  • Identify strategies educators can use to promote net zero climate education

These seem ambitious for a 2 hour slot, and I do wonder where (or whether, perhaps) a line can easily be drawn between promoting "net zero climate education" and promoting particular "net zero policies".


  1. A focus on net zero emissions is a portion of a broader climate education program and is worth addressing because of the current buzz in political circles. Net zero policies recognize that climate is changing, human-emitted greenhouse gases (GHG) are the primary cause, reducing GHG emissions is essential to limiting the extent of global climate change, which will enable people and nature to adapt to the changes.
  2. Eliminating all GHG emissions is not possible.
  3. Net zero policies advocate first reducing GHG emissions to the greatest extent possible, then removing and/or sequestering the remaining anthropogenic GHG from atmosphere.
  4. Setting a net zero policy is meaningless unless organizations and governments work toward achieving it. Bigger emitters should be working sooner and harder to reduce emissions.  Justice considerations occur at the international level as well as within every community.
  5. To make climate education practical and oriented around action projects, learners could learn about and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the following: heating and cooling systems, food waste, animal-based diets, and transportation. Schools have opportunities to model how a building could reduce GHG emissions though energy, food, water, and transportation considerations; work as a voice for education and deliberation in the community; prepare youth to make individual decisions and act collectively to create a lifestyle and community with minimal GHG emissions through the curriculum.

The 1st sentence of [1] is environmental education 101.  Indeed, many persist in seeing climate education as [merely] an aspect of environmental education, albeit a key one.

[2] is simply true though not everyone wants it to be.

[3] is also true, currently looks daunting and will rely on technological innovation at scale.

[4] is true as well, although not all the "bigger emitters" accept their role.  The justice point is right.

However, there seems to me to be a missing element to these first 4 points; namely that there is a temporal dimension to what we are now doing.  The way that net zero will be implemented requires a timeframe, whereas merely "dealing with climate change" does not.  In other words, we have set a date: typically this is turning out to be 2050.  We also have to set dates for taking intermediate steps and meeting interim goals.

Doing this necessarily creates tensions around what the steps are to be, how to achieve them and getting democratic permissions for doing both.  There is much controversy in all this.  The evidence from the UK is that high school students want to consider these things.

Section [5] is fine, but it's old hat; it might be climate / environmental education but it's got nothing to do with net zero because there are no timings.  It could have been written 15 years ago; indeed it was.

It's now a commonplace suggestion that schools should become more sustainable in relation to what they themselves do; indeed, that they might even be sustainable schools.  But should they try to become net zero schools?  Or is it that being a sustainable school these days would necessitate its being a net zero school?  I don't know.  Are these even sensible questions?

Clearly some think so.  For example, enframe.  More on this later.

Posted in: Comment, Talks and Presentations


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response