Romania pushes to add climate change education in schools

A girl touches her face mask during festivities marking the beginning of the school year at a school in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. (Photo: AP)

Romania’s president wants to add sections on climate change and environmental issues to the national school curriculum to enable students to learn more about the challenges the world faces from climate change.

President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday launched a public debate over a 141-page proposal and attended a meeting at the presidential palace on it with Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, Romania's environment and education ministers, teachers, students and nongovernmental organizations.

The report suggests increasing the amount of climate change and environmental education that students receive, creating a national network of 10,000 environmental ’mini inspectors,’ supporting nature-based activities, and creating digital learning materials on climate change.

Longer-term goals in the report include improving the sustainability of school infrastructure and cutting schools’ carbon footprints in half by 2030.

“Education is one of the pillars of improving the response to climate change, as education leads to changes in human behavior, in the sense of a greater responsibility to protect nature and the future of society as a whole,” Iohannis said Tuesday.

“What we want more than anything else is to pave the way for a change of mindset … we all want a clean, waste-free environment,” he added.

Gabriel Paun, president of the environmental group Agent Green, welcomed the report and said it's of “utmost necessity.”

“Our generation has failed to save the climate but at least we can give the next one a chance to fight with the best available tool — which is education,” he told The Associated Press.

He said Romanian politicians now “lack ambition” in efforts to tackle climate change.

According to the European Commission, 41% of Romania’s Recovery and Resilience Plan funds from the EU — 29.2 billion euros ($33.1 billion) — are allocated to “measures that support the green transition,” including phasing out coal power over the next decade.

“Even though we still have a long way to go in the public consultation process ... the report presented today allows us to start preparing now,” said Ciuca, the prime minister.

“What we set out to do — that is, changing the behavior and mentality of an entire generation — is a long process,” he added.