Climate change communication and education

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1. Context

2. Climate change education and training in the country

3. Climate change communication in the country

4. Monitoring and evaluation


  1. Context

i. Climate change context

Panama is the isthmus between Central and South America. According to the Nationally Determined Contribution of Panama (2020), the country has an ample natural heritage. Due to its geographical features and the construction of the Panama Canal, its market and financial activities have been quite beneficial, and Panama has experienced constant economic growth with resulting benefits for development.

The World Bank (2021) indicates that Panama’s population is approximately 4.3 million people, including a significant Indigenous population. According to the Government Strategic Plan (2020–2024), the country had approximately 540,000 Indigenous people in 2020.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index of Panama (2021) states that the country is mainly vulnerable to hydro-climate threats such as floods and extended dry seasons. In addition, high social inequality throughout the country means that those in the low social stratum have a double disadvantage. El Niño Southern Oscillation effects can influence other natural events such as storms, tsunamis, and tropical cyclones (World Bank, 2021).

According to the Global Carbon Atlas (2021), Panama is a low-emitting country, emitting approximately 2.8 tCO2/person. The 3rd National Communication (2018) mentions that the most significant emitting sectors in the country are energy (69%); agriculture, deforestation, and other land uses (17%); waste (9%); and industrial process (5%).

Panama joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a Non-Annex I party in 1995. The country signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, the Doha Amendment in 2015, and the Paris Agreement in 2016. Panama was a negotiator at the regional level and signed the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Non-Annex I Parties to Justice in Environmental Affairs in Latin America and the Caribbean (also known as the Escazu Agreement) in 2018.

Supported by collaboration with UNFCCC and the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the country has hosted the Regional Collaboration Center-Pamana (RCC) since 2013, which promotes climate action and the effective implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions in Latin America, and also provides support in different climate action fields to develop mitigating outcomes. Their headquarters is located in Panama City and is also hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners.

ii. Relevant government agencies 

Climate change

Following the Escazu Agreement’s guidelines, the country committed to publicizing the list of entities in charge of environmental affairs, including a multidisciplinary Cabinet Council that cooperates in different fields, comprising ministries such as the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Environment. The Cabinet Council is essential in national policy responses; for example, in May 2023, the Cabinet Council declared a State of Environmental Emergency in the country due to prolonged drought, and they categorized this emergency a consequence of the climate crisis.

Responding to the need to tackle climate change, the government presented the Executive Decree 1 (2009) that created the National Committee of Climate Change (CONACCP). The Committee is formed by representatives from different public sectors, such as the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agricultural Development, and national universities. The Committee will ensure institutional coordination to guarantee the implementation of the international agreements on climate change signed by the government, emphasizing lines of action on adaptation and mitigation.

In Panama, the Ministry of Environment is empowered under Law 8 from 2015, which establishes its faculties and duties. The Ministry is responsible for formulating, evaluating, and approving the country’s national environmental policies and strategies. Further, the law mandates that the Ministry of Environment will foster adaptation and mitigation for climate change initiatives, with the support of other competent authorities. The Ministry of Environment is also the headquarters of the National Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Focal Point of Panama.

Decree 36 (2018) restructured the Ministry of Environment and created the National Climate Change Directorate that works under the scope of the Ministry. The Directorate organizes the country’s climate action in a mainstream and strategic way, and was formed by the Department of Adaptation, Mitigation to Climate Change, and Climate Action. Among the Directorate’s approaches are: ecological transition, reduction of greenhouse gases, and incorporation of measures that strengthen resilience to climate change impacts.

In coordination with the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Economy and Finance is essential in implementing actions to tackle climate change in public and private investment projects, including capacity building in this economic sector. According to the Updated Nationally Determined Contribution (2020), the goal is to mainstream climate bases and standards so all public investment projects will implement climate considerations by 2025. In response to Government Strategic Plan 2020–2024 mandates, the Ministry of Economy and Finance established the Technical Committee on Climate Change in March 2023 to develop a long-term strategy to promote a culture of climate support. This initiative involves collaboration from different sectors and private and public entities, and highlights that the Ministry seeks to access long-term, low-cost resources or loans to serve as a financing platform for Panama.

The Ministry of Agricultural Development also fosters initiatives tackling climate change in the agricultural sector. The entity is committed to working in fields like food security, rural development, and production, acknowledging the impact of climate crisis on these sectors. For instance, the Ministry was in charge of developing the National Plan on Climate Change for the Agricultural Sector of Panama and works closely with the Ministry of Environment to develop collaborations around climate change issues.

In addition to guaranteeing the security of the country, the Ministry of Public Security (MINSEG) also collaborates on the environmental sector. According to the Ministry’s Institutional Strategy Plan 2022–2030, the Ministry protects people’s lives, enhances environmental management, and reduces disaster risk factors by working in parallel to other national institutions. The Ministry addresses climate change and promotes environmental awareness and sustainable resource uses.

Different stakeholders play essential roles in climate action in Panama. For instance, Foundation Natura was established in 1991 as a non-profit organization promoting plans and programs for the protection and conservation of the natural heritage of the country. Over time, its capabilities have been enhanced, and the Foundation is now responsible for allocating financing and support to other environmental organizations in the country.

Education and communication

In Panama, the Ministry of Education is the body that guarantees access to education in the country, which stimulates research. Through the Awareness Subprogram of the National Climate Change Policy (2007), the Ministry of Education is responsible for disseminating information on the climate change problem, raising awareness on climate vulnerability, identifying and creating adaptation solutions, and fostering mitigation actions.

Within the scope of the Ministry of Environment is the Environmental Culture Directorate, which promotes environmental culture and education. The Directorate depends on the assistance of the Environmental Education Department, which elaborates and updates national environmental education plans in formal and non-formal sectors, fosters environmental education with the support of key stakeholders, and promotes awareness campaigns on environmental conservation. The Department for the Promotion of Environmental Responsibility focuses on strengthening public participation, capacity building, environmental culture, and scientific research on environmental conservation.

The National Climate Change Directorate fosters the creation of scientific knowledge on climate change and research and collaborates in the collection of valuable information that supports decision-making on climate change adaptation and mitigation. In addition, the Directorate strengthens capacity building on climate change subjects in private and public sectors, academia, and at the grassroots level.

The Hydrological Meteorological Institute of Panama is responsible for developing, overseeing, and collecting data on natural and hydrological phenomena. The Institute collaborates on issues ensuring the population’s safety and regarding sustainable development. The institute established standard procedures to produce forecasts, climate change knowledge, and climate changes consequences.

Under the Ministry of Environment’s scope, the National System of Environmental Information (SINIA) collects, analyzes, and provides access to environmental information on natural resources and the sustainability of the territory. The entity works in parallel to the Inter-institutional Technical Committee for Environmental Statistics and offers a large amount of information, including official documents and climate change data.

The National Institute of Vocational Training and Training for Human Development (INADEH) is an autonomous state institution in charge of professional training, which promotes a culture of training for life and work. The institution offers academic options for environmental and climate change initiatives.

The autonomous institution National Secretariat for Science, Technology, and Innovation (SENACYT) plays an important role in Panama for scientific development, research, and technology to enhance the competitiveness and modernization of the private sector, the government, academic researchers, and the general public. The secretariat also includes climate change initiatives.

In Panama, environmental conservation organizations such as Balu aula are focal points that enhance research and education, build capacity in environmental fields, and provide a mechanism to raise climate awareness among the national population.

iii. Relevant laws, policies, and plans 

Climate change

Panama’s climate change legislation has increased significantly after the National Climate Change Policy was presented by the environmental authority in 2007. Among the objectives established in the National Climate Change Policy are strengthening the competency of institutions and the general public in climate change mitigation and adaptation approaches. More recently, the Ministry of Environment is moving forward with initiatives to update this Policy and create a climate change framework law. This bill law was presented by the Ministry of Environment in January 2023 to the governing council, and includes relevant changes to institutions, management, and financing, as well as promoting climate change information and public participation.

The Ministry of Environment has gained momentum since Law 8 was established in 2015. Through a later institutional restructuring based on Decree 36 (2018), more approaches related to climate change were included. For instance, an increased focus of institutions on clean energy, environmental culture, research, environmental education, and monitoring were highlighted, among other initiatives that collaborate on mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Regarding biodiversity, the Ministry of Environment launched the National Strategy of Biodiversity and Action Plan (2018–2050) to protect and conserve biodiversity, but also brought sustainable use and management of national biodiversity into the mainstream, ensuring a harmonious relationship between human beings and biodiversity. The strategy implements several activities towards 2050, including environmental education, awareness, financing, and communication initiatives.

Considering the vulnerability of the agriculture sector to the climate crisis, the government of Panama presented the National Plan on Climate Change for the Agricultural Sector (2018). The Plan emphasizes the high correlation of this sector with poverty, poor health, and unemployment, which affects a considerable percentage of the Panamanian population. The Plan seeks sustainable ways of production that reduce carbon emissions but also result in a competitive and participative sector that is resilient to climate change.

The Panamanian government released the Government Strategic Plan 2020–2024 (2019) that promotes governance based on efficient and transparent institutions and addresses the adversities of the country, including initiatives to address climate change such as the use of clean energies, forest protection, and the mainstreaming of international agreements to secure the well-being of the population. The Plan emphasizes that rural and Indigenous groups are usually the most affected by environmental degradation, and highlights activities to strengthen the capacity of these groups such as enhancing institutions for and in support of Indigenous populations, working towards equal access to education, promoting inclusion and active participation, and implementing traditional knowledge into climate policies and plans.

In 2019, the Ministry of Environment presented the National Climate Change Strategy ENCC 2050 with initiatives to advance a green economy balanced with socio-environmental aspects. The Strategy focuses on adaptation and mitigation actions that must be mainstreamed in the country to build a sustainable road to 2050. The actions that will lead to low-carbon socioeconomic development are prioritized in four sectors: energy, agriculture, land use and silviculture, and waste.

Decree 135 (2021) regulates Chapter I of Title V from the General Environmental Law (1998) of the Republic of Panama, which is about adaptation to global climate change. The decree aims at 1) creating a national climate change adaptation data system for the management, evaluation, and monitoring of climate risk and vulnerability; 2) establishing a national adaptation monitoring, evaluation, and reporting system; 3) arranging the activation of the Climate Change Adaptation Fund (FONACC); and 4) creating a national program on building resilience. Accomplishments related to these objectives can be seen in the new National Climate Transparency Platform (2022). The Decree also indicates that the National Climate Change Directorate is the responsible entity for preparing and conducting the National Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation Forward 2030 and 2050, which will be updated every 5 years. Strategy objectives include enhancing national capacities, financing mobilization, raising climate awareness, and conducting monitoring and evaluation.

The Ministry of Health also cooperates in climate change affairs by periodically publishing reports on Climate Change vulnerability in the Republic of Panama and its impact on health. The report from 2021 analyzes climate variables, heat waves, and water scarcity in the country, as well as the status of national institutions in sectors such as education, economics, and agriculture. The report also highlights the inclusion of climate education and training initiatives into new plans developed in the health sector.

With the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ministry of Environment presented the National Gender and Climate Change Plan in 2021 to strengthen national capacities to bring gender equality perspectives on climate action policies into the mainstream. The Plan is aligned with the Updated Nationally Determined Contribution’s objectives, prioritizing work within the same sectors: agriculture, energy, forest, resilient human settlements, and public health.

The Ministry of Environment launched the National Strategy of Environment (2021–2030) that brought together four strategic axes: governance for environmental management; green-blue economy for sustainable development, climate resilience, and well-being; conservation-restoration of natural heritage and biodiversity; and education, research, and technology for environmental management. The axes aim to articulate the country’s environmental management over the next ten years and enhance environmental protection and conservation decision-making processes.

In 2022, the Ministry of Environment presented the National Climate Action Plan (PNAC), which proposes social, institutional, and structural actions to be implemented in the short term. The Plan facilitates and guarantees the implementation of the Updated Nationally Determined Contribution of Panama (2020). The Plan also pursues sustainability and resilience and the maintenance of low carbon emissions in the long term by boosting socioeconomic and environmental development, highlighting climate financing access, and supporting regional and global cooperation.

Most Panamanian documents on climate affairs refer to Indigenous groups and vulnerable people on the coasts. For instance, the 3rd National Communication (2020) mentions autonomous actions that native people implement in locations such as the island of Guna Yala, retaining their cultural aspects. However, people may be displaced with climate impacts; therefore, external actions are being implemented in these areas to support local communities.

With the support of the Green Climate Fund and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Ministry of Environment presented the National Strategy REDD+ for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in 2022. The strategy will contribute to objectives and commitments of actions, measures, and policies regarding climate change and natural resources. One strategic action is implementing initiatives on Indigenous territories and strengthening Indigenous participation.

Education and communication

According to the Political Constitution of Panama from 1972 (the last amendment was from 2004), the State guarantees a healthy and pollution-free environment as well as socioeconomic development that prevents environmental impacts and maintains an ecological balance. According to Article 110, the State implements training to disseminate knowledge on the duties and rights of individuals and groups concerning personal health and the environment.

The Ministry of Environment is responsible for promoting formal and non-formal environmental education in coordination with the Ministry of Education according to Law 8 (2015). As mentioned above, Decree 36 (2018) reinforced this premise by promoting increased communication efforts, research, education, and awareness through a new institutional framework.

Education is important for development and equality, and is of high public interest; therefore, the Institutional Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Education (2014–2019) of the Educational Sector Plan 2014–2019 is based on seven strategic axes—including among others health, environment, and risk management—that promote environmental sustainability, risk prevention, and health aspects such as nutrition. A later document ‘The Strategic Education Plan, From Educational Policies to Action (2019–2024)’ does not mention environmental or climate change initiatives, but it aims to align the Government Strategic Plan 2020–2024 priorities (including climate change and environmental aspects) with the national educational policies.

The Government Strategic Plan 2020–2024 addresses different aspects of the country. In terms of education, the Plan focuses on environmental education and mentions the need to improve this field, and the Plan establishes a main task of including environmental education in the curricula.

Under the scope of Decree 38 from 2014, environmental education and the proper management of disaster risks are mandatory at the National level, empowering the Ministry of Education as the entity that regulates, promotes, and oversees the educational programs of environmental education. In addition, the Decree requires the inclusion of environmental education in higher education.

The government of Panama presented its Updated Nationally Determined Contribution in 2020. It emphasized the work done on capacity building for climate action in different sectors—such as financing, access to information, participation, and access to justice—as a result of the implementation of the Escazu Agreement (2018).

In 2021, Law 243 was launched, which creates a Graduate Program supporting reforestation in Panama, which is for high school students about to graduate. The law aims at raising awareness of climate change causes and consequences by requiring students to participate in reforestation activities. Every student is required to plant five trees in areas determined by the Ministry of Environment before finishing their studies and obtaining their diploma.

The Government of Panama presented Law 378 in May 2023, which establishes guidelines for implementing the Policy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The law works towards a Panamanian society that promotes sustainable development by enhancing their capacities, skills, values, attitudes, and competencies to better face national and international challenges such as climate change, environmental sustainability, loss of biodiversity, poverty, and inequalities.

Further, the Updated Nationally Determined Contribution (2020) highlights the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) policies and the need for common and multi-sectoral efforts to implement the ACE elements. As Panama’s profile was being developed, so was the National Strategic of Action for Climate Empowerment (ENACE), with different workshops and public participation mechanisms being organized at the same time.

iv. Terminology used for Climate Change Education and Communication

Among Panamanian governance, most documents include the term ‘environmental education’ when referring to the educational learning process. Decree 38 established that environmental education is compulsory, and environmental education is considered a pillar for conservation, sustainable development, environmental protection, and prevention of natural hazards.

Legislation such as Law 36 also empowers the Ministry of Environment and its agencies to include environmental education approaches. The law merges the meaning of environmental education with the civil education of Panamanian citizens by highlighting that “the National Environmental Consultative Commission will facilitate the ‘civic-environmental education’ process for citizens as a whole” (p. 30).

Other related terms can also be found in official documents, such as ‘awareness,’ ‘capacity building,’ and ‘training.’ The National Climate Change Strategy ENCC 2050 incorporates adaptation measures to climate change awareness campaigns, training, and education on environmental changes.

Education for Sustainable Development is being implemented in Panamanian policies. For instance, the Government Strategic Plan (2020–2024) mentions enhancing environmental and cultural education for sustainable development:

[...] involves research and didactic proposals, strategies, and resources that serve to reorient the formal practice and informal environmental education towards an education for sustainable development, which implies the paucity of data that allows timely intervention to promote change in thinking and behaviour (p. 134).

The terms ‘climate change education and communication’ were not used but were implied within the context of the documents reviewed for this profile. For instance, the National Plan on Climate Change for the Agricultural Sector includes among its objectives the “development of continuous training strategies, aimed at all stakeholders, as well as such as strengthening the extension; for capacity building to ensure a sustainable agricultural sector in the face of climate change scenarios (p. 44).”

v. Budget for climate change education and communication

The World Bank has published that the Panamanian government’s expenditure on education was 3.9% of the GDP in 2020. Through different negotiations, educational funding is expected to be increased. According to the newspaper article “La Estrella of Panama,” the government will allocate 6% of the GDP to education by 2024.

Public monetary initiatives such as the Awareness and Environmental Education Plan began in 2022 through the Ministry of Health and the Panama Sanitation Program. The initiative seeks to enhance sustainable environmental culture in the country by making the health system more efficient. The reference participation price was approximately US$ 562,000 (PAB 561,770).

Regional financing and technical support from the Development Bank of Latin America CAF aids in the implementation of national climate change policies, empowering the country to be more resilient to climate events. A bank-approved credit for US$ 320 million was extended to the government of Panama in 2022. The program supports countries with a commitment to pursuing Sustainable Development Goals and implementing urgent measures to tackle climate change and its impacts.

The Ministry of Environment’s budget for 2023 is approximately US$ 57.800 billion (PAB 57.780 billion). The amount of money allocated for environmental education was not available at the time of this review. Among the projects prioritized in the budget is the National Climate Transparency Platform, which promotes climate communication and education at the country level.

For adaptation to climate change, Law 8 (2015) mentioned that the Climate Change Adaptation Fund was created by the General Environmental Law (created in 1998 and reformed in 2003, 2006, 2010, and 2015); the fund was later reinforced through the Decree 135 (2021). The Fund’s budget comes from donations and contributions from national and international stakeholders and from financial support for climate change mitigation projects. All funds are part of the Ministry of Environment’s budget. The Fund is chaired by the National Climate Change Directorate, and climate change communication and education are included among the projects financed by the Fund. For example, in July 2021, the Fund chose 20 fellows to attend an international 40-hour course in Adaptation to Climate Change based on the Ecosystems of Marine Coastal Zones, with an Emphasis on Marine Coastal Wetlands.

The Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Economics and Finance, and other stakeholders created the Technical Guide on Climate Change for Public Investment Projects (2020), which facilitates the integration of climate change domains into publicly funded infrastructure projects; this increases the financial mobilization for this climate change category by national and international institutions, including the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility. In addition, the guide describes how to implement climate mitigation and adaptation in education, training, public awareness, and communication to strengthen capacities to promote sustainable economic growth and development in the country.

According to the Updated Nationally Determined Contribution (2020), the commitments to 2025 include the implementation of a target for climate change in the national budget; therefore, in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic and Finance, the government can better identify, monitor, and allocate climate change funding to different sectors of the government.

  1. Climate change education and training in the country

i. Climate change in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education 

The Panamanian government determined in the Government Strategic Plan (2020–2024) that one of the country’s primary causes of environmental problems is the weak environmental education and culture. In parallel, the Ministry of Environment highlighted the state of environmental education in the country in an official document called ‘The Main Environmental Problems of Panama.’ Thus, improvement of environmental education has recently become a higher priority.

Efforts are being gathered from different sectors to create a National Environmental Education Policy. In July 2022, the strategy to develop the Policy was discussed, and government members from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Environment recognized the importance of new efforts for environmental education given the effects of climate change.

The Ministry of Education released several curricula in 2022 under the motto ‘safe return to school.’ The materials are split into different grades for teachers and students. The curricula were also aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nevertheless, in the Natural Science Guide for Students of 6th grade, references to climate change education were not found. The document includes environmental approaches, topics on human interaction with the environment, the importance of forests, and the use of fossil fuels and types of energy sources. Students are also encouraged to protect the environment through active learning and self-evaluations on how they can help to conserve and protect the environment.

The Natural Science Guide for Docents of 6th grade suggests learning mechanisms that they can apply during lectures. The curriculum uses a cognitive learning process in which students acquire general knowledge on ecosystem types, deforestation, pollution consequences, urbanization effects, and effective use of energies.

During the hurdles and limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, Panamanian institutions and stakeholders mobilized efforts to continue the learning process in the country. For instance, Indigenous schools such as the Bucori school in the District of Kasupin received rapid responses for educational support. Similar benefits were found by implementing workshops on Education for Sustainable Development Guidelines in educational centers, encouraging the schools to promote sustainable development aspects including global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, unsustainable use of resources, and socioeconomic inequalities.

Furthermore, Law 378 (2023) implements a Policy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the country, with guidelines for developing and strengthening fundamental axes such as curricula, teacher training, student empowerment, educational research, and strengthening inter-institutional coordination.

Under the National Strategy of Biodiversity and Action Plan (2018–2050) initiatives in formal education, environmental education programs and tools in the three levels of education will be updated and incorporated by 2025. In addition, a strategy and action plan were agreed upon with Indigenous and local people by 2030, and they will include guidelines and instruments that favour the preservation of traditional knowledge on biodiversity and highlighting gender and public participation aspects.

Audubon Panama is a long-established organization created mainly for bird conservation; nevertheless, it has also made commitments to environmental communication and education. For instance, the Green Classrooms project involves students in their last years of elementary school in learning topics such as biodiversity, the importance of wetlands, energy sources, food security, pollution, recycling, climate change, and risk and vulnerability management. The project began in 2009 and included educational field tours in the learning process. By 2022, the project had included approximately 23,000 students from different schools.

ii. Climate change in teacher training and teaching resources

The government recognizes that the country has a gap in environmental professionals. According to the Environmental Culture Directorate of the Ministry of Environment, the country lacks professionals in communication and environmental education. For this, measures have been taken, such as incorporating environmental programs in higher education and creating agreements among universities.

The National Secretariat for Science, Technology, and Innovation (SENACYT) offers courses in diverse fields. In June 2022, the Secretariat encouraged school teachers who work in natural sciences in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade to participate in the Climate Change Diploma course by applying to the public call that offers 30 scholarships financed by the SENACYT. The course contributed to continuous learning and incorporated relevant topics in natural sciences, such as climate change. The course lasted around five months and was taught virtually and in person. In May 2023, a second call for applicants was launched, again offering 30 spots.

In general terms, the Government Strategic Plan 2020–2024 promotes teacher training, highlighting the improvement of requirements and qualification processes to become professors and teachers, including a national training system.

In 2020, the Technology University of Panama (UTP) in collaboration with the National Technical University (UTN) from Costa Rica launched a virtual diploma course for teachers called “Climate Change and Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management.” The aim was to train teachers to transmit climate- and disaster-risk knowledge to future engineering professionals to build a more resilient built environment in the Central America region. Around 62 professors participated in the course, which sought to raise awareness on mainstream climate topics among curricula, students, and communities.

Through Audubon Panama and the project Green Classrooms, school teachers also benefited by learning about biodiversity, the importance of wetlands, energy sources, food security, pollution, recycling, climate change, and risk and vulnerability management. The initiative included introductory workshops and annual talks for teachers and school principals to share concerns and exchange progress and achievements on the project’s implementation. As of 2022, the project had been implemented in 20 schools in the country, benefiting approximately 300 teachers.

Under the Balu Uala Foundation activities, a free virtual course on climate change was launched in January 2022. The initiative was addressed to teachers and endorsed by the Ministry of Education. Among the 20 modules of the course, the following subjects were covered: climate change and its consequences, climate anxiety, energy transition, climate justice, and political and economic analysis as the cause of climate emergency.

Further, the collective organization Ya es Ya (Now is Now), comprising environmental groups and people from multidisciplinary backgrounds, shares broad information on climate change affairs. The Collective provides learning opportunities, including online workshops for different sectors and an intensive course for teachers on climate crisis topics taught by international specialists, including Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) members.

iii. Climate change in higher education

The Panamanian government has initiated efforts to improve the quality of education and incentivize research and innovation in tertiary education. Various institutions and stakeholders, such as the National Secretariat for Science, Technology, and Innovation (SENACYT), foster academic activities promoting sustainable development in the country. Decree 36 mandates the Ministry of Environment and its decentralized bodies to promote scientific research focused on solving environmental problems and facilitating interactions among scientists, institutions, universities, and stakeholders.

The Ministry of Environment and the National Climate Change Directorate are committed to cooperating with universities, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to enhance research and collect valuable information on climate change affairs; this information will be included in the new National Climate Transparency Platform that gathers data on climate change action. Users can interact with the Platform’s website through educational courses and by adding data and accessing information.

The Ministry of Environment encourages universities to sign agreements in environmental study areas. For instance, the Technological University of Panama signed a cooperation framework agreement with the Ministry of Environment and the National Association of Reforesters and Allied Products of Panama (ANARAP) to foster cooperation on research, technological and scientific development, and to create joint projects to boost environmental management, reforestation, and themes related to climate change. The agreement includes the exchange of human capital through the promotion of internships, talks, and other initiatives that further national development.

The Technological University of Panama seeks to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by submitting reports about their monitoring practices. The University also has initiatives in climate change-related fields. For example, they are cooperating with other universities in Latin America and the Caribbean to support the Integral Postgraduate Program in Attention to Climate Change that connects various Master’s programs on food security, risk management, biodiversity, and climate change.

The Network of Panamanian Universities for Sustainable Development (RUPADES) was launched in 2015 to foster environmental management in Panamanian universities; this will empower new professionals in socio-environmental fields and who are facing issues such as climate change. The network works as a focal point to exchange valuable information and to better implement sustainability values in the universities. The network encourages activities such as research, training, workshops, and promotion of environmental communication.

The University of Panama has made steady efforts to cooperate on climate change affairs. For example, the institution has incorporated professor training on Integral Risk and Disaster Management and Adaptation to Climate Change into the University’s research plans. In October 2022, the Ministry of Environment and the University of Panama agreed to join efforts to foster environmental education by including teaching activities and by collaboratively defining the National Environmental Education Policy.

Further, the Catholic University Santa Maria La Antigua collaborates on promoting actions to tackle climate change. In cooperation with Clean Foundation Panama, the university organized a conference to discuss climate change affairs, encouraging academics and society to participate in activities and movements that mitigate climate change.

According to the National Climate Action Plan (2022), universities and research centers are essential in the country’s efforts to seek and develop new solutions and actions for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Plan mentions those innovations as bases of public planning and monitoring.

iv. Climate change in training and adult learning 

Panama has various mechanisms to strengthen climate capacity building. The National Climate Change Policy (2007) includes objectives that pursue capacity building from a technical perspective to enhance the institutional framework on climate change affairs. The policy also seeks to train the political bodies that participate in climate change negotiations, representing and advocating the country’s interests.

Decree 36 promotes the capacity building of public institutions and citizens that work on environmental topics. The decree delegates the responsibility to monitor priorities and implement capacity-building initiatives to various departments in the Ministry of Environment. In parallel, the Government Strategic Plan (2020–2024) highlights that the technical capacities of the Ministry of Environment for the main tasks and efforts can be strengthened through different institutions, such as the National Secretariat for Science, Technology, and Innovation (SENACYT), to increase the quality of human capital and employment in the country.

In Panama, the National Institute of Vocational Training and Training for Human Development  (INADEH) offers various courses on pedagogy, agriculture, renewable energies, mining, and the environment. The environmental subjects covered are environmental management, environmental impact evaluation, environmental protection, and climate change and carbon footprint. The last topic is a 100-hour-long course about climate change phenomena and their impacts on the country, with the goal of enhancing innovative adaptation strategies. Its curriculum includes concepts such as greenhouse projections, legal frameworks, footprint management, and adaptation and mitigation measures.

Governmental directorates such as the Environmental Culture Directorate and their agencies play an essential role in training. For instance, the Directorate has enforced the dissemination of environmental and climate knowledge through workshops to enhance workers’ performance and strengthen the communities’ capacities on climate affairs.

With a focus on the youth of Panama, the National Climate Change Directorate works with various national and international stakeholders on the Climate Change Academy for Youth Leaders. The Academy seeks to raise awareness, increase capacity, and increase participation of Panamanian youth on climate change topics. In February 2023 the Ministry of Environment made a call for the 7th round of the Academy with plans to offer a virtual one-month course emphasizing building climate knowledge for better decision-making in different sectors of the country.

The National Gender and Climate Change Plan prioritized the strengthening of institutional capacities on gender and climate change affairs, and also focused on ensuring the participation of women and men in climate projects and programs. The Plan establishes short- and long-term actions among different sectors. For example, in the forestry sector, the Plan includes technical training teams (women and men) to implement and manage the National Strategy REDD+ based on a gender approach. The National Strategy REDD+ focuses on capacity building at the institutional level and also on marginalized groups—such as Indigenous, Afro-descendants, and rural people—to address deforestation and climate change and provide better access to local development.

Foundation Natura provides training in projects that they finance, but they also cooperate with civil society initiatives. The three main training components are strengthening social networks, supporting environmental initiatives, and promoting public participation. Foundation Natura requires that projects include environmental education, workshops, technical assistance, research, and talks among their action lines.

Following mainstream policies, the National Climate Action Plan (2022) enhances climate transparency through capacity development in the country, and considers the inclusion of a gender vision in adaptation plans and strategies. The Plan seeks to improve technical–scientific expertise, skills, and institutional competency to assess, adapt, manage, and develop better environmental innovations in the country.

The Ministry of Environment and the National Climate Change Directorate encourage a self-learning process for the population through the free National Climate Transparency Platform. Users can find information and courses on climate change, forestry, climate legislation, and management; these create capacity and enhance citizens’ participation in climate action.

In the economic sector, the Technical Guide on Climate Change for Public Investment Projects (2020) aims to enhance the adaptation and mitigation capacities of the institutional framework that works on public investment. The guide also focuses on training the technical experts that perform climate risk evaluations on public projects by promoting knowledge transfer to facilitate innovation and to improve resilient parameters.

As per the Ministry of Public Security’s Institutional Strategy Plan (2022–2030), the Ministry seeks to enhance environmental awareness and sustainable resource use to reduce climate change impacts in the country. This is through training public servants on environmental protection and causes and consequences of climate change topics.

Regional efforts on training are made by the Regional Collaboration Center-Panama (RCC), which supports different activities to empower climate action in Latin America. For example, in 2021, they collaborated for the workshop “Support for the Development of Long-Term Climate Change Strategies in Latin America,” where stakeholders shared priorities and experiences to enhance technical capacities and effectively approach goals by building long-term agendas.

  1. Climate change communication in the country

i. Climate change and public awareness 

As a result of different legislations and initiatives in various sectors of the country, climate change awareness movements are increasing in Panama. For instance, Decree 36 empowers the Department of Adaptation to Climate Change under the scope of the National Climate Change Directorate to lead and promote awareness campaigns to disseminate climate change information. The Department is also supported by the Environmental Education Department and key actors involved in environmental education and conservation.

The National Gender and Climate Change Plan also includes a strong emphasis on increasing awareness among marginalized groups (Indigenous, Afro-descendants, rural towns, pregnant women, children, and older people) to strengthen their knowledge of environmental protection practices and the conservation of Indigenous customs for better climate resilience.

Panama’s Ministry of Environment has developed efforts to reach citizens in the country. In October 2020, the Ministry made an environmental awareness campaign in the district of Chepo. Around 160 families were visited to talk about topics such as the effects of climate change, recycling, saving water, use of energy, and proper disposal of garbage at home. The campaign also included a mascot as an environmental messenger and the delivery of books for the community’s children.

Responding to Natural Resources Month and in compliance with Law 243 (2021), the Ministry of Environment launched an awareness campaign on climate change in June 2023. The initiative was implemented in high schools in the region of Los Santos to empower students on environmental conservation and restoration. Training activities were also implemented on climate mitigation and resilience actions that are performed in the province.

The initiatives of the Institutional Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Education (2014–2019) include awareness-raising initiatives on environmental sustainability and conservation at schools to maintain a safe environment, but also to support the integrity of the education system.

The National Strategy of Environment (2021–2030) has a strong approach to increase society’s awareness of environmental and climate change affairs. The Strategy emphasizes the importance of increasing environmental culture at the national level through multi-sectoral initiatives, including monitoring awareness plans at the local level, developing campaigns through different communication means, and cooperating with municipalities to implement strategic action plans and awareness programs.

Non-governmental organizations such as Audubon Panama implement initiatives to raise awareness in Panamanian society, in addition to disseminating a large amount of material through their website and social media accounts, especially on birds and environmental conservation. This organization also provides monthly talks on conservation topics to the general public. In total, approximately 20 tours a year are organized throughout the country.

ii. Climate change and public access to information 

Decree 36 (2018) promotes access to environmental information for better decision-making in education, awareness, and public participation. Other legislation, such as the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Affairs in Latin America and the Caribbean (Escazu Agreement, 2018), reinforce the citizen’s right to access environmental information in government possession. Decree 135 (2021) also guarantees the right of access to environmental information and the duty of transparency of public information.

Panama’s Ministry of Environment offers a large variety of information on its website, including official governmental documents, updated news on environmental aspects, international commitments, direct access to the National Climate Change Directorate website, environmental magazines, reports, and indexes related to climate change. The Ministry also has a virtual library where people can find more information, including material on climate change, protected areas and biodiversity, water use, and marine resources.

The National Climate Change Directorate’s website also offers content relevant to climate change. The Directorate includes national–international climate legislations, actions for mainstreaming climate information in the country, and a virtual library. The Directorate works with the Ministry of Environment in its social media accounts, such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, where users can track posts related to climate change topics in the country.

In 2022, the National Climate Transparency Platform was launched to collect and offer access to different kinds of information on climate action (publications, reports, and free courses). Users can also report data related to the national program Reduce your Footprint, which manages and monitors low-carbon economic development and social development to promote a transition to carbon neutrality in 2050.

The National System of Environmental Information (SINIA) is also responsible for offering citizens public information about the environment through national reports, strategies, plans, and statistics on different topics such as climate change, fishing, land use, environmental management, and energy. The climate change section publicly shares the country’s official documents related to climate change. The system strongly emphasizes citizens’ rights established in the Escazu Agreement (2018), including access to information.

The Hydrological Meteorological Institute of Panama offers information related to forecasting information, hydrology, and other environmental aspects. The institute also provides information on climate change, such as projections, basic concepts, official documents, agreements, and indicators.

iii. Climate change and public participation 

Among the Ministry of Environment’s functions is promoting the participation of citizens when formulating and implementing environmental policies, strategies, and programs. Decree 36 resulted in the formation of the National Environmental Advisory Commission (chaired by the minister or vice minister, and comprising four officials of the central government, nine members of civil society, and two representatives from the Indigenous regions) to work alongside citizens to analyze environmental affairs and make observations and recommendations to the Ministry of Environment. The Commission’s tasks are to promote public participation and transparency in the population’s civic-environmental education process.

Panama’s Ministry of Environment’s website publishes consultations about the development of plans, and people can participate in different ways according to the type of consultation. For example, in January 2023, the public consultation for the “Modification of the Limits of the Protected Area: Banco Volcan” encouraged citizens to comment and share concerns or suggestions via email or in person.

Through a participatory mechanism, the government of Panama is currently building the National Strategy of Action for Climate Empowerment (ENACE), which will increase the climate knowledge and capacities of the Panamanian population within the next 15 years. In 2022, the Ministry of Environment developed 17 workshops to discuss and construct the strategy’s strategic axes. The discussion themes included the following: Who should support climate competency in Panama and for whom it should be addressed? How does individual climate change knowledge affect Panamanian’s future? and What is the current climate change situation in Panama? Other topics were addressed when the venue was opened up for citizens to share their perspectives and needs regarding environmental aspects.

The Ministry of Environment promotes the active participation of citizens through the Environmental Volunteers Program, which incentivizes the Panamanian population over 18 years old to participate in reforestation days, plant nurseries, environmental education projects, biodiversity conservation, management of solid waste, and green tourism in protected areas.

The National Gender and Climate Change Plan has an ambitious goal of contributing to gender equality by using participation to develop the Plan, including with Indigenous groups, to better understand their needs for climate change and gender inequalities. The Plan promotes equal gender access to consultation spaces, decision-making, and empowerment options in the sectors prioritized by the Updated Nationally Determined Contribution.

Under the National Strategy REDD+’s action lines, the participation and contribution of Indigenous groups are essential when implementing the REDD+ projects of reforestation, environmental conservation, and forest resources impacts. The strategy fosters monitoring, involvement of various age groups, and security processes of Indigenous territories, and ensures participation to adapt all awareness and training processes to natives’ worldview.

  1. Monitoring and evaluation

i. Country monitoring 

In compliance with the monitoring and evaluating objectives established in Decree 135 (2021), the National Climate Transparency Platform (2022) aims to measure the progress of adaptation and planning policies in the country. The system commits to constantly collecting valuable information to evaluate the need for or improvement of climate decision-making. The information will be linked to the Updated Nationally Determined Contributions and other action plans on climate change affairs. The information is mainly processed by the National Climate Change Directorate, universities, and other stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations.

The Government’s strategic plans in Panama play an essential role in determining gaps, priorities, and actions that the country must face. The last Government Strategic Plan (2020–2024) references the sectors that the country is monitoring, such as education, climate change, health, and the economy.

According to the Law 378 (2023) and guidelines to implement a Policy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), a tracking and monitoring system will be developed. This is to measure performance and achievement resulting from the law and to enhance decision-making, strengthen strategies, and improve institutional management and articulation of national education policies.

Panama participated in the 2018 PISA Competence Study. The Study showed no positive findings for Panamanian students’ knowledge of global issues, as the country ranked among those with the lowest awareness of global problems (including climate change and global warming). However, less than 50% of the students sample were included in the Study.

The 3rd National Communication (2018) highlighted the importance of effective monitoring of climate variability in the country, mentioned some gaps in measuring climate activity and projections, and identified the need to promote better professional climate change education.

ii. MECCE Project Monitoring


This section will be updated as the MECCE Project develops.

Last modified:

Wed, 29/11/2023 - 10:16