CLIMATE CHANGE COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATION
2. Climate change education and training in the country
3. Climate change communication in the country
Climate change context
Due to local and regional civil conflicts, Colombia has a high level of internally displaced people and also hosts many refugees from Venezuela. This has contributed to rapid growth in urban areas, and growing vulnerability to climate change hazards, such as floods, landslides, droughts, and cyclones due to informal and insecure housing situations.
According to the New Climate Change Scenarios of Colombia (2011-2100), Colombia expects increases in temperature and significant changes in rainfall in the future. The effects of climate change are predicted to vary throughout the country, and include rising sea levels, increasing desertification processes, decreased productivity of agricultural soils, and increased water scarcity. Further, climate change might also cause more severe and more regular El Niño or La Niña phenomena to impact the country.
Colombia is a diverse, multi-ethnic, and multicultural country. It has 32 multicultural departments (i.e., equivalent to states or provinces) with 710 Indigenous reservations, 123 Afro-collective territories, and 11 Kumpañy Rom (patrilineal family groups which live or travel together based on alliances of various kinds) (Educational Attention to Ethnic Groups; 2018)
Under the Colombian Political Constitution (1991), multi-ethnic fundamental rights are protected, including the rights to continued development of cultural identities, as well as rights to community participation, linguistic diversity, territories, and education. Further, Indigenous knowledges are increasingly recognized as crucial for climate change discussions in the country. Indeed, Indigenous people in Colombia have focused their efforts to gain the right to receive an education that respects their worldview, identity, culture, customs, and native languages. These efforts are evident through results such as the first recognized public Indigenous university in Colombia, the Autonomous Intercultural Indigenous University.
Colombia is a low emitting country, with emissions of approximately 2 tCO₂ per person in 2019 according to the Global Carbon Atlas. Nevertheless, illegal and informal agriculture, deforestation, and energy production (mostly from hydrological resources) have led to increased emissions in recent years. As a result, the country is the fifth-highest emitter in Latin America and the Caribbean according to the 3rd National Communication (2017) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Colombia is a Non-Annex I, or non-industrialized, country under the UNFCCC, and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 and the Paris Agreement in 2018. The country has not yet accepted the Doha Amendment.
Relevant government agencies
Colombia has several government agencies responsible for climate change monitoring and responses. Decree No. 298 (2016) established the National Climate Change System (SISCLIMA), which is responsible for managing, assessing, and developing strategies and policies for adapting to and mitigating climate change. The SISCLIMA is the umbrella organization that brings together the different actors working with climate change in the Colombian government.
The Intersectoral Commission on Climate Change (CICC) supports the SISCLIMA and consists of regional nodes and several ministries. It is the coordinating body for the National Climate Change Policy and the Regional Climate Change Nodes. The National Planning Department chairs the CICC together with the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS), the central Ministry involved in Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) work in Colombia. Under MADS, the Vice Ministry of Environmental Planning of the Territory organizes different bureaus such as the Environmental Planning of the Territory, which houses the National United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ACE Focal Point, the National Environmental System, the Directorate of Climate Change and Risk Management, and the Sub Directorate of Education and Participation.
The National Environmental System (SINA) is an organization guided by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development that gathers different environmental policies, activities, projects, and initiatives of public and private institutions with the aim at following sustainable development guidelines through democratic and participatory management.
The Climate Finance Committee brings together different government agencies and stakeholders to support climate action. It steers the MRV (measure (M), report (R), and verify (V)) System in Colombia and is an important mechanism in the country’s climate change efforts.
The Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) collects information about Colombian natural resources and the environment, which supports the development of sustainable development and climate change policies. The Institute also creates educational materials and provides technical and scientific support for schools, government organizations, and others.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Urban Development is active in the distribution of information about climate change with a focus on agriculture and urban development.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy plays a role in relation to processes for renewable energy.
The Ministry of Housing, City, and Territory works on climate change adaptation and mitigation in its role as the organization in charge of implementing the Kyoto Protocol.
Education and communication
In the education sector, the entity in charge of formal education and training initiatives in Colombia is the National Ministry of Education. Climate change communication and education are among the Ministry’s assignments. The Ministry is also responsible for development projects, including the Environmental School Projects (PRAE) and the University Environmental Projects (PRAU). These two projects have been Colombia’s flagship projects for integrating environmental education in the formal education system since 1994 and are developed in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
The National Council of Higher Education (CESU) supports the Ministry of Education by assessing, coordinating, and advising on the higher education sector, which is regulated by the State University System (SUE).
The National Learning Service (SENA) is in charge of technical and vocational training, which offers few courses related to climate change.
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Environment created the Interinstitutional Technical Committees of Environmental Education (CIDEA), which implement national environmental policies and environmental education in accordance with local guidance for each region.
Relevant laws, policies, and plans
Law No. 1523 (2012) established the National Risk Management Plan (2015-2025) and the National Management System of Disaster Risks with the primary goals of ensuring the safety and well-being of Colombia’s citizens, developing sustainably through sustainable territorial environmental management, creating secure development plans at all levels of the government, and fostering citizen participation. They include dimensions on education and communication to support environmental risk management.
Another climate-relevant law is Law No. 1715 (2014), which established a legal framework and instruments to increase the use of non-conventional energy sources, mainly renewable energy. The Law also specifies lines of action to fulfill Colombia’s commitments in renewable energy matters and supports management of energy-efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
In 2018, the ‘Climate Change Law’ No. 1931 established guidelines for climate change management in public and private institutions. The Law focuses both on adaptation measures, and on initiatives to mitigate greenhouse gases, with the goal of reducing the Colombian population’s vulnerability to climate change.
Colombia also has a number of national strategies and plans that lay out its responses to climate change. The 2011 Institutional Strategy for the Articulation of Policies and Actions on Climate Change in Colombia (CONPES), developed by the National Council for Economic and Social Policy and the National Planning Department, aims to include knowledge and awareness about climate change in relation to social development in Colombia. The Strategy provides guidelines for incorporating climate change in country planning. For example, the CONPES framework determines that communication and education must be included in all future climate plans.
One of the first plans for reducing the risks and socio-economic impacts associated with climate change and climate vulnerability in Colombia is the 2012 National Adaptation Plan. The Plan is one of the first adaptation plans in Latin America and focuses on five strategic priorities:
Raising awareness about climate change
Generating information and knowledge to measure climate change risks
Planning land use
Implementing climate change adaptation guidelines
Strengthening climate change adaptation and reaction capacity (p. 6)
The National Climate Change Policy (PNCC; 2017) encourages institutional, regulatory, and public policy arrangements to generate a consensus between public and private decisions on climate change. The PNCC also established the Intersectoral Commission on Climate Change (CICC). The Policy is dedicated to engaging all sectors across the country, including the environmental education sector, to achieve short-, medium-, and long-term goals for climate change. The policy identifies education and training as being among the instruments necessary to achieve the Policy’s five strategic objectives (p.10). The Policy also includes goals to increase capacity and mainstream climate change in the formal education system.
The Integral Climate Change Management Plan by Sector (PIGCCS) was established by Law No. 1931 in 2018. The Plan mandates that each Ministry identify, evaluate, and guide the incorporation of greenhouse gas mitigation measures and adaptation to climate change in the policies and regulations of their respective sectors, as designated by the National Climate Change System. Moreover, educational guidelines must be implemented in these plans as relevant.
The National Development Plan (PND; 2018-2022) lays out a ‘Pact for Sustainability.’ It focuses on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by implementing an up-to-date environmental institutional framework, including maintaining biodiversity and developing new income opportunities. Further, the Plan aims to make Colombia resilient to the risks and impacts of disasters.
Colombia’s Strategy E2050 (2020) lays out the country’s long-term climate change plans up to 2050. The country’s medium-term vision of sustainable development to 2030 is established by the Colombian Strategy for Low Carbon Development (n.d.) and the Comprehensive Strategy for Deforestation Control and Forest Management (n.d.). The country’s short-term vision is currently carried out through the National Development Plan (2018).
The Colombian Nationally Determined Contributions Update (2020) identifies Colombia’s priorities through three key components in the fight against climate change: 1) greenhouse gas mitigation; 2) adaptation to climate change; and 3) implementation of policies and actions for carbon neutral development that is adapted and resilient to the climate.
Education and communication
Colombia’s overarching governance principles, the Political Constitution (1991), which enables policy and decision-makers to create legislation and action plans based on fundamental rights, mentions environmental education as an indispensable instrument to protect the diversity and integrity of the environment.
Decree 1743 (1994) mandates the inclusion of environmental topics into formal education curricula at all levels, in both public and private schools. Further, the Law acknowledges different ethnic groups, and highlights that educational materials should include their traditions and cultural characteristics. This Law is implemented through Environmental School Projects (PRAE), Colombia’s flagship project for environmental education.
A related law, Law No. 1549 (2012) defines environmental education and mandates specific climate change education integration into curricula. The Law also prompts the establishment of an environmental culture in schools and broader communities through Citizen and Community Environmental Education Projects. These projects are coordinated by citizens to help the Colombian government reach its climate change and environmental goals.
The Education Curricular Guidelines, which comprise Colombia’s National Curriculum Framework, are from 1998. They are complemented by the Curriculum Strengthening Guide (2017) and the pre-primary curriculum (2017). Climate change is only included in the newer curriculum frameworks, although the older document has a strong connection to environmental education.
In 2002, Colombia developed the National Policy on Environmental Education, which lays out Colombia’s goals for environmental education. While the Policy is an update to a version from 1995 and is still used today, it does not include climate change. In addition, most departments (states) of Colombia have developed their own environmental education guidelines.
Colombia adopted The National Strategy for Education, Training, and Public Awareness on Climate Change in 2010, which aims to strengthen learners’ adaptive skills and understanding of issues related to climate change, particularly through climate change communication and education. It is a key document in the country’s efforts for climate change communication and education.
The Ten-Year National Education Plan (2016-2026) is the country’s National Education Plan. It does not reference climate change.
The Nationally Determined Contributions from 2020 identifies education, training, and awareness as critical areas to help achieve the country’s goals for 2030, and refers to the previously mentioned laws and policies by saying that Colombia:
Seeks to effectively incorporate climate change into formal education and education for work and human development, providing continuous training cycles in climate change from the first years of life to the productive age to strengthen public awareness and capacities, especially young people, trainers, and future professionals, and decision-makers. (p. 43)
Finally, Colombia submitted the Actions of the National Strategy for Education, Training and Public Awareness on Climate Change in addition to its 3rd National Communication (2017). The document is dedicated entirely to describing the country’s actions in relation to Actions for Climate Empowerment (ACE).
Terminology used for Climate Change Education and Communication
Colombia uses different terminology to refer to climate change communication and education, with the publication date of a policy being the strongest indicator of language use. Older policies and strategies are more likely to refer to the ‘environment’ and ‘environmental education,’ while newer documents use ‘climate change’ and ‘public awareness,’ following UNFCCC language. For example, The National Strategy for Education, Training, and Public Awareness on Climate Change (2010), states:
Education and awareness of public information on climate change are essential to promote the creation of adaptation and mitigation capacities. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the current domain of technicians and scientists, due to the relative complexity and novelty of the phenomenon, is public knowledge. (p.8)
The National Climate Change Policy (PNCC 2017) made climate change communication and education a key element and defines six areas, which link to UNFCCC language, in which it should be used:
It has defined guidelines that contribute to the creation of capacities at the local, regional and national levels in this matter, and it promotes the insertion of climate change issues in environmental education strategies, as well as it has proposed and developed six strategic axes; i) access to information, ii) participation, iii) public awareness, iv) training, v) education and vi) research. (p. 138)
Most Colombian climate change strategies identify the need to increase public awareness and bring about cultural change. One strategy of Colombia’s 2012 National Plan for Climate Change Adaptation is to ‘raise awareness about climate change.’ The Plan communicates the need to develop an education policy for climate change with the ultimate goal of ensuring climate change becomes part of Colombian culture by creating:
An education policy for climate change must be defined whose ultimate goal is its inclusion within the culture, through permanent educational and pedagogical processes, in which the causes of climate change, the observed and predicted impacts, and the response are taught. from socio-ecosystems to these. (p.53)
‘Environmental education’ is also a frequently used term in Colombian documentation. For example, the Education Curricular Guidelines aim to teach students to “analyze common scientific and technological knowledge, the nature of science and technology, its value implications in society and its impact on the environment and the quality of human life.” (n.p.)
Law No. 1549 from 2012 defines environmental education as:
A dynamic and participatory process, aimed at the training of critical and reflective people, with capacities to understand environmental problems in their contexts (local, regional and national). As well as to actively participate in the construction of integral bets (technical, political, pedagogical and others), which aim at the transformation of its reality, based on the purpose of building environmentally sustainable and socially just societies. (Article 1)
The 3rd National Communication (2017) to the UNFCCC remarks that the country has an advantage in climate change actions related to awareness, training, and public education because the Colombian people are familiar with the topic due to a long history of environmental education being offered by governmental and non-governmental institutions.
Budget for climate change education and communication
The Climate Finance Committee is the most important entity for supporting climate actions in Colombia. It steers the country’s investments and monitors the system by looking into financial flows. It also evaluates the efficiency of the country’s climate change adaptation measures.
According to the 3rd National Communication (2017), the Colombian government designates around US$390,000 annually specifically to climate change actions. This figure does not include resources being provided to the country from Regional Autonomous Corporations, research institutes, or national parks.
In 2021, the National Ministry of Education was allocated around US$14 million. This is the Ministry’s highest budget since it was established, although it is not clear how much is intended for climate change communication and education.
Additionally, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS) designates resources to climate change management and environmental education. MADS works with decentralized entities, which also provide resources for climate change communication and education; however, concrete amounts are not publicly available.
Climate change in primary and secondary education
In Colombia, climate change is included in formal education curricula in a variety of ways across all levels of schooling. A description of the types of climate change-related keywords discussed in the curricula may be found in the MECCE Project Monitoring section of this profile.
Various policies call for the inclusion of climate change into formal education, most prominently the National Climate Change Policy (PNCC; 2017), which makes climate change education one of the key climate change adaptation strategies in Colombia. The Policy states:
The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Education - Ministry of Education must advance the definition of specific guidelines so that educational plans and the promotion of School Environmental Projects (PRAE) incorporate climate change and ecosystem services. (p.71)
Colombia established School Environmental Projects (PRAE) through Decree No. 1743 (1994), which mandates that all forms of formal education include environmental projects.
The pre-primary curriculum (2017) does not explicitly mention climate change. Still, the importance of building ecological awareness and respect for biodiversity in the early ages are included in the curriculum, which provides space to discuss climate change at the teacher’s discretion. The curriculum aims to make students “sentient beings and active communicators who interact in various ways with the world, that care for and conserve the environment and promote attitudes of respect towards natural resources as part of ecological awareness.” (p.41)
Colombia uses the Education Curricular Guidelines for primary and secondary education, which have not been updated since 1998. The Guidelines are complemented by subject-specific curricula. Climate change is not directly mentioned in the general curricular guidelines. Nevertheless, we can see parallels to climate change education. For example, the goals for environmental education, addressed across the curriculum, are:
Awareness and sensibilization about the environment and its issues
Knowledge and experiences about it
Values, attitudes, and behaviors for the improvement and protection of the environment
Competence to identify, anticipate and solve environmental problems
Participation by giving the opportunity of being proactive on environmental matters (n.p.)
According to the curricular guidelines, the basic primary education curriculum is oriented towards enhancing cognitive development by teaching students about natural resources and the environment generally for the first three years, which acts as a starting point for learners to engage with environmental issues.
The Curriculum Strengthening Guide (2017), which was developed to enhance the curriculum’s quality, describes the school system’s goal of developing better knowledge sharing and interdisciplinarity within the natural sciences, environmental education, and other curriculum areas. The Guide indicates that the natural sciences and environmental education are fundamental and mandatory topic areas alongside non-compulsory topics of environmental protection, ecology, and preservation of natural resources. According to the Guide, Colombian students engage in participatory projects of general interest focused on environmental issues in the first years of secondary education.
Colombian schools also have access to resources to assist with climate change education outside of the curriculum. The Ministry of Education website Colombia Learns includes several educational resources for students, teachers, and parents. A related portal, Learn Digital, provides content in different knowledge areas to complement training and learning processes. The Portal includes primary and secondary materials in areas such as natural sciences, sustainable development, and sustainable natural resource use, and engages with climate change. For example, it explores questions like “why do we need to keep the climate in mind when constructing bridges?”
CLIMALAB is an NGO created by young Colombians dedicated to developing socio-environmental initiatives and projects that promote community empowerment and decision-making around climate change. Among their projects is Schools for the Climate in the Country, a tool to support primary and secondary schools in incorporating climate and environmental sustainability approaches in their academic, administrative, and operational processes. The project outcomes include:
Developing leadership in environmental and climate management
Incorporating climate change and sustainable development as part of the ‘Environmental School Projects’ (PRAE) and institutional curricula and operations
Measuring schools’ Carbon Footprints and creating actions to compensate for emissions
Creating leaders capable of communicating and acting on climate change (n.p.)
The National Strategy for Education, Training, and Public Awareness on Climate Change (2010) focuses mainly on public communication strategies. It also highlights the Ministry of Education’s objective to include elements of climate change across all levels of formal education to enable learners to mitigate the impact of their activities on natural resources and adapt to new social and climatic dynamics. The Strategy also notes that significant progress has been made in formal environmental education due to the 2002 Policy for Environmental Education. No further information was available at the time of data collection due to the recent inclusion of climate change in formal education.
The Directorate of Climate Change together with the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development has developed virtual courses for children to teach them more about climate change and provide ways for them to get certifications.
Colombia’s 3rd National Communication (2017) demonstrates how climate change education initiatives are distributed between educational levels. Primary education and secondary education represent 49% of planned initiatives in the country, with an additional 16% involving the Environmental School Projects (PRAE).
Finally, the National Climate Change Policy recommends improving guidelines in formal education to better integrate climate change, saying that “Regarding formal education, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Education must advance in the definition of specific guidelines so that educational plans and the promotion of the PRAEs incorporate climate change and ecosystem services.” (p.139)
Climate change in teacher training and teaching resources
While Colombia offers several in-service climate change teaching supports and resources, it is unclear how climate change is included in pre-service teacher training.
To support the Environmental School Projects (PRAE), which embed environmental education, citizenship, and post-conflict topics in schools, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Education, and the University of Colombia created The Climate Changes, Me Too (n.d.) to guide and train teachers to incorporate climate change topics into the curriculum and their classes. The program’s goal is to increase teachers’ knowledge of climate change and guide them to teach about climate change more effectively. The program provides examples of concrete climate action projects and provides advice on how to increase interdisciplinary projects.
The National Ministry of Education website Colombia Learns is a digital platform with hundreds of educational courses and educational materials offered to teachers, students, and parents. The platform includes training courses for teachers on natural sciences, environmental education, and sustainable development.
The Ministry of Education’s portal Learn Digital has a specific formal education section, which presents natural science teachers with didactic units for properly developing lessons on climate change and related themes for grades 1 to 11.
Teacher Contact is another digital tool for educators offered by the Ministry of Education. The tool provides teachers with up-to-date information and resources on climate change. Examples of resources related to climate change are: ‘Strengthening of PRAE, climate change and education,’ ‘Climate change education,’ and ‘Let’s lower the temperature: From climate science to action.’
The report Education in Colombia published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; 2016) describes some issues in teaching in Colombia which are relevant to climate change education. The report says that “Improving teaching practices at all levels, and heightened expectations for the profession should go alongside adequate training opportunities and remuneration.” (p.5). The report further outlines a need to, “develop professional standards to define what good teaching is and align relevant training opportunities, effective evaluations, and adequate career and remuneration structures with them.” (p.8)
The section Actions of the National Strategy for Education, Training and Public Awareness on Climate Change from the 3rd National Communication (2017) shows that building capacity in climate change-related teacher training represents only 5% of the country’s total activities related to climate change communication and education, with an additional 2% being targeted towards teachers of various ethnic groups. The gap in this area is mainly caused by institutional planning which blends environmental education and climate change education. It is also important to mention that neither the National Strategy for Education, Training and Public Awareness on Climate Change (2010) nor the National Climate Change Policy (2016) mention teacher training, which suggests that more support to teachers is required.
Climate change in higher education
While ensuring adequate access to higher education has historically been a significant challenge in Colombia, participation in higher education has recently increased at a rapid rate. According to the Ten-Year National Education Plan (2016-2026), tertiary learning participation grew from 30% in 2006 to 52% in 2016, which translates into more than a million new students.
Colombia’s Ministry of Education created the University Union in Sustainable Production and Consumption in 2010, which included around 25 universities at the time of data collection. The Union is oriented towards increasing environmental sustainability in higher education, contributing to institutions' competitiveness, and ensuring campus communities’ well-being. For example, some institutions have created permanent courses which teach sustainable production and consumption as core competencies in professional and technical careers. Moreover, the Union focuses on topics related to climate change, such as renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Colombian Association of Universities (ASCUN) is an NGO that brings together Colombia's private and public universities. It highlights the importance of higher education in fighting the social and environmental problems that affect the planet. The Association is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 and has a strong commitment towards climate change action. A study conducted by ASCUN mapped climate change actions and projects around the country in 2019. They found 37% of higher education institutions in Colombia were involved in climate change action, with a significant number of projects focused on training and increasing awareness of climate change.
The Environmental Network of Sustainable Universities (RAUS), which comprises a consortium of higher education institutions, aims to provide universities with a space to contribute their experience in environmental issues, manage research projects that promote knowledge about the environment, and address current environmental problems. One of the Network’s projects, ‘Actions of higher education institutions against climate change,’ encourages Colombia’s leading higher education institutions to update their actions on climate change. The project also designed a Climate Change Observatory to track and monitor future climate change initiatives at universities.
The Alliance of Ibero-American Networks of Universities for Sustainability and the Environment (ARIUSA) is a network created in 2016 in collaboration with the United Nations Environmental Program. ARIUSA runs a number of projects focusing on environmental education in higher education institutions across Latin America.
The 3rd National Communication (2017) reports that the higher education sector represents 20% of climate education projects in Colombia’s formal education sector, with an additional 2% of projects being University Environmental Projects (PRAU), which aim to mainstream environmental education into higher education curricula.
Climate change in training and adult learning
Training programs and adult learning for climate change are supported by a range of government ministries.
In 2015, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS) published a Training Program for environmental authorities and territorial entities such as the National Environmental System, which includes sections on climate change, developing national and regional climate response scenarios, and exploring the economic implications of climate change. MADS also creates climate change digital material to reach different actors throughout the territory of Colombia. For example, the Virtual Training School is a platform where courses about climate change are offered to build the general public’s capacity to prevent and fight climate change effects.
The National Learning Service (SENA) offers free technical training for the public that focuses on the economic, scientific, and social development of Colombia. SENA also provides training related to sustainable development and climate change action, offering courses such as ‘Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change Locally,’ ‘Forest and Environment,’ and ‘Structuring a Green and Inclusive Business.’
The peace agreement with the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces in 2016 represented a significant step for the country, including for climate action. As part of a project designed by MADS and SENA, the Revolutionary Forces have helped develop climate change plans in territories where the Revolutionary Forces used to hold power. In addition, former combatants are being trained to contribute to environmental projects and sustainable opportunities in these territories.
The Colombian Network of Environmental Training (RFCA) is a national civil association supported by the Ministry of Education. They offer training courses on different topics, such as mobility and sustainable development.
According to the Actions of the National Strategy for Education, Training and Public Awareness on Climate Change section of the 3rd National Communication (2017), Colombia maintains a specific goal to encourage “the inclusion of the topics of climate change in formal education basic, medium, technical, and superior, as well that in education for work and human and informal development.”
Climate change and public awareness
Colombia has developed several public awareness initiatives and has acknowledged the importance of awareness in various laws and policy documents. Most municipalities and departments have their own policies adapted to local needs.
The National Strategy for Education, Training and Public Awareness on Climate Change (ENEFSPCC; 2010) takes a prominent place in Colombia's climate change policies. Most later documents are modeled after the Strategy, which identifies the importance of climate change awareness in all activities. Since 2010, Colombia has implemented a number of activities to strengthen awareness about climate change, such as campaigns, events, awareness days, informative materials, and academic events. According to the 3rd National Communication (2017), the goals of the ENEFSPCC have advanced due to growing opportunities and interest from the public and other entities for climate change action. Increased interest in research, higher levels of knowledge and public trust, and increased responsiveness among government institutions in charge of climate change information have also increased climate change awareness in Colombia.
The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS) runs several events and projects. For example, Soy Ecolombiano (which translates to ‘I am an Eco-Colombian’) aims to promote environmental awareness to different sectors in an inclusive and participatory way. The project’s goals include fostering environmentally responsible behavior in a broad spectrum of Colombian people. This initiative is based on an ecological footprint calculator which shows interested people how their consumption compares to Colombia’s average consumption and to sustainable levels of consumption. The calculator also advises users on how to adopt more climate friendly behaviors.
One of the five strategic goals of the National Climate Change Policy (2017) relates to public awareness, education, and training, and highlights the importance of persistently increasing climate change awareness among the public:
The third Strategy is education, training, and public awareness; includes guidance for integrating topics from climate change to education to contribute in a broad and general way to the identification, understanding, and construction of the educational process aimed at strengthening future capacities in the private sector and society in general, that promote timely and appropriate actions to advance on a climate-resilient and low-carbon development path, as well as preparing the way for the formation of sufficient human resources and high quality that in turn allow improving the capacity of the institutions for climate change management. (p.87)
To prepare its 3rd National Communication (2017), Colombia conducted its first national public perception survey of climate change, which showed that 98% of the population is aware that climate change is occurring. Nearly all respondents (91%) said the television was their primary source for information on climate change, with internet and radio being the primary information source for under 10% of respondents.
Climate change and public access to information
A range of stakeholders provide access to information about climate change in Colombia and resources are becoming available in increasing numbers. The National Development Plan (2018-2022) outlines the government’s intention to ensure all government employees have digital information access across all government sectors. This will help support the mainstreaming of climate change information, increase transparency between public entities, and improve access to information on climate change.
Considerable effort is made by the governmental Institute of Hydrologic, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) to inform the public about environmental and climate change news and plans. The Institute’s website includes valuable information such as: Basic concepts of Climate Change, Regional Climate Change Actions, Colombian Calculator of Carbon Dioxide 2050, National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change (2011), National Climate Change Policy (2017), and Colombian Low-Carbon Development Strategy (n.d.).
Another valuable and easily accessible tool for Colombians is Climate Changed Us Forever, based on an alliance between IDEAM, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the El Tiempo Newspaper. The tool provides information about how the climate (temperature and precipitation in particular) has changed in the past 40 years and includes projections about what may happen in the next 20 years.
The Colombian Environmental Information System is a comprehensive website where the public can access information on climate change, including environmental statistics and information on natural resources. The System is led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in coordination with other institutions such as IDEAM, the Colombian HUMBOLT Institute, and the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA).
Colombian government ministries also use social media to share information with the public. Most ministries have Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter accounts. Added to this, some websites offer chat functions where questions and concerns can be quickly answered.
Climate change and public participation
Colombia’s government has mechanisms in place to include public participation in policy-making and sectoral engagement, and to protect and promote the right of all citizens to provide input into discussions about social and global issues. The 3rd National Communication states that “social participation is a key to advance any process of environmental management” (2017, p.11).
Since 2016, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development has offered a Citizen Participation Plan. For example, citizens can contribute to decision-making processes through public hearings, suggestions, and consultations on matters related to the environment, climate change, sustainable development, and quality of life.
Another example is the Policy of Social Participation in the Conservation (2001), an initiative of the national parks of Colombia, which promotes social participation processes by giving access to the parks. The initiative also allows citizens to take part in decision making, inter-institutional coordination for biodiversity conservation, environmental services for protected areas, and cultural diversity.
In Colombia, the Community Environmental Education Processes (PROCEDA) are community initiatives developed by organized groups of citizens to face environmental problems and increase community participation by developing local projects. Some of their specific goals include:
Generating spaces for training, awareness, self-management of projects, and exchange of experiences
Contributing to the solution of specific problems of local realities
Implementing pilot experiences in strategic areas, guaranteeing a solution to environmental problems (n.p.)
Also, the National Planning Department (DNP) closes gaps between government, municipalities, and citizens through the National Markets for Citizen Service. These events, similar to trade shows or career fairs, provide spaces for dialogue between government and citizens. They allow communities to speak with the government about climate change, as well as environmental services and procedures.
I) Country monitoring
Currently, there is no specific entity or organization in charge of monitoring climate change communication and education in Colombia. However, a number of strategies and agencies monitor progress in this space. In particular, the Climate Finance Committee has a detailed system for Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) for climate action.
The Colombian government highlights that monitoring and evaluation should be considered in all government plans, projects, and initiatives. The National Climate Change Policy (PNCC; 2017) dedicates an entire chapter to monitoring and evaluation of climate action based on actions, resources outcomes, results, and impacts.
The section on Actions of Education, Training and Public Awareness Actions on Climate Change in Colombia from the 3rd National Communication notes the need to create mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the goals set in implementation strategies:
“An essential element for the structure of educational opportunities and implementation of Climate Change measures is creating instruments to follow-up, monitor, and evaluate goals. Control and evaluation facilities’ feedback of results, as well as recognition of the fulfillment of the goals in climate change education, which is vital for the continuity of the processes”
– Actions of Education, Training and Public Awareness Actions on Climate Change in Colombia, 2017, p. 95
In Colombia, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are monitored and tracked by the SDG Colombian Commission, a formal entity integrated across different ministries that follows and prioritizes Agenda 2030. There is no information available about climate change communication and education progress thus far. Nevertheless, their annual reports indicate steady progress is being made in relation to climate change.
The National Administrative Department of Statistics is responsible for producing Colombia’s official statistics. Its website provides statistics and information about different subjects, including education and the environment. The Department also works with the Colombian SDG Commission to provide information on climate change specifically.
Another inter-institutional initiative related to climate change monitoring is the National System of Adaptation Indicators to Climate Change (SIACC). This enterprise aims to offer information about adaptation to climate change and monitors indicators to inform national and international planning and projects. As part of the Colombian Environmental Information System, SIACC manages Colombia’s environmental information, statistics, and climate change monitoring, such as the Forest and Carbon Monitoring System for Colombia and biodiversity monitoring.
The 2010 National Strategy for Education, Training and Public Awareness on Climate Change has several aims, including to “quantify the value of education in terms of cost-benefit as a key mechanism for adaptation to climate change” (p. 39). The Strategy also aims to evaluate management of multilateral international organizations, such as the Global Environment Facility and the UNFCCC secretariat, in order to mobilize resources for the development of Action for Climate Empowerment projects. The Strategy also focuses on “measures that promote access to information, public awareness, training, education, research and participation. education, research and participation” (p. 39).
The 2018 PISA Competence Study indicates that Colombian students score among the highest in the world on their understanding of global issues, including climate change and global warming.
The Institute of Hydrologic, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) is one of Colombia’s main institutes for collecting scientific, hydrological, meteorological, and environmental information to be used for public and governmental purposes. The entity also collects climate change data and tracks climate change processes and projects in cooperation with most ministries, including the National Education Ministry.
II) MECCE Project Monitoring
The Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project examined the Curriculum Strengthening Guide (2017) (NCF) and the Ten-Year National Education Plan (2016-2026) (NSP) for references to ‘climate change’, ‘sustainability’, ‘biodiversity’, and the ‘environment’.
There are no references to ‘climate change’ in the Curriculum Strengthening Guide (2017), which is Colombia’s National Curriculum Framework (NCF). ‘Climate change’ is also not referenced in the Ten-Year National Education Plan (2016-2026), which is the country’s Education Sector Plan (ESP). ‘Environmental education’ is referenced twice in the NCF and three times in the ESP, and ‘sustainability’ is mentioned 11 times in the ESP. ‘Biodiversity’ is also not mentioned in either document.
This section will be updated as the MECCE project develops.