Expert Briefing: OHCHR Call for Input – Climate Change and the Right to Education for Girls

24 Jun 2024

OHCHR Call for Input: Report on how climate change can have an impact on the realization of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently issued a call for input to prepare a report on how climate change impacts the realization of the right to education for girls. Our response was written by Léa Weimann, a PhD student from the University of Cambridge Faculty of Law and Sofie Surraco from the CCE, with review support provided by the Global Pact Coalition. 

Briefing highlights:

The OHCHR initiative, pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 54/19, seeks to highlight the barriers exacerbated by climate change that prevent girls from equally enjoying their right to education, including how environmental degradation and extreme weather events disrupt education and amplify existing inequalities.  

The OHCHR report will consider measures taken to mitigate these barriers and will make recommendations to enhance the resilience and capacity of educational systems to adapt to climate change. Key areas of focus include the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and adaptability of education for girls.  

This effort underscores the intersection of climate change and human rights, particularly the right to education, and aims to ensure that girls, especially those in vulnerable situations, can contribute meaningfully to the climate agenda. 

Response highlights: 

Women and girls, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, face significant educational barriers and are disproportionately affected by climate-related risks due to existing gender roles and inequalities. Holistic and intersectional approaches are needed to address these challenges and promote inclusive policies for education and climate resilience. 

By 2025, climate change is projected to prevent at least 12.5 million girls from completing their education each year, primarily due to its destructive impacts on educational infrastructure and increased gender-based vulnerabilities. Natural disasters damage schools, leading to prolonged interruptions in education, while girls face heightened risks of violence and exploitation, exacerbating educational inequalities. To address these challenges, education systems must adapt to changing environmental conditions and integrate gender-sensitive climate interventions to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, as emphasized by Sustainable Development Goal 4. 

Upholding girls’ right to education significantly contributes to climate change action by fostering economic development, enhancing disaster risk reduction, and promoting effective climate policies. Educated girls are more likely to reduce child marriage rates, which can lead to increasing women’s lifetime earnings and boosting the global economy.  

Article 12 of the Paris Agreement emphasizes the crucial role of education in empowering society to engage in climate action. It advocates for advancing girls’ education in alignment with broader human rights principles of availability, accessibility, acceptability, and adaptability. Frameworks like the Gender-equal Green Learning Agenda and initiatives such as BRACE underscore the importance of integrating gender-responsive approaches in education to achieve climate resilience and sustainability.  

Investment in climate-smart education, especially in teaching STEM equally to girls, is essential for fostering their active participation in environmental protection and the low-carbon economy. To meet global net-zero goals, continued financing and the systematic inclusion of gender perspectives in climate policies are vital. 

Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown; Women of Seychelles lead efforts towards healthy oceans

“Empowering girls through education is essential for building climate resilience and addressing the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change. We welcome this report and support the pursuit of further research in the area.” 

Sofie Surraco, Content Lead, CCE

Next Steps

The OHCHR is gathering data and case studies from various stakeholders to understand the gaps and challenges in empowering girls through education to address climate change. This includes integrating climate and environmental education into curricula and promoting girls’ leadership and participation in climate action. The findings will be presented to the Human Rights Council in its fifty-seventh session.