Is it time to mainstream climate change education in the Kenyan curriculum?

Angela Hsieh | Credit: NPR

Over the past decades, we have experienced drastic global climatic shifts. The World Meteorological Organization reports the global mean temperature for 2021 averaged 1.09°C, above the 1850-1900 baseline. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report[1] cautions if the current trend persists throughout the century, the world will experience a warming of 2.7°C by 2030, remaining off track with the Paris Agreement of long-term temperature goal of limiting warming to way below 2°C. The effects of increasing global warming and climate change are becoming more apparent and complex. Unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in GHG emissions, the goal to limit warming to 1.5 °C will be beyond reach.

Closer home, Kenya’s Greenhouse gas emissions have doubled over the last two decades and are estimated to increase to 143 MtCO2e by 2030 as the country pursues the Vision 2030 development agenda[2]. Agriculture, energy, forestry, industry, transport, and waste are the leading sources of emissions. Their combined emissions are projected to grow to about 100 and 143 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2022 and 2030, respectively. This continues to pose threats to Kenya’s Sustainable development goals. Kenya’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) highlights that successive climate change impacts result in socio-economic losses estimated at 3-4% of gross domestic product annually and thus impede development efforts[3].

Needless to say, Kenya is a leader in addressing climate change and was one of the first countries to enact comprehensive laws and policies to guide national and county governments. [4]The Climate Change Act (2016) and the National Climate Change Policy Framework provide guidance for low carbon and climate resilient development. The Climate Change Act (2016) is the main legislation guiding Kenya’s climate change response through mainstreaming climate change into sector functions.

Education – Critical Pathway to Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation  

Global climate change policies recognize the role of tailored climate change education in promoting climate change adaptation. Article 6 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCC)[5], encourages parties to promote, develop and implement educational, training, and public awareness programs on climate change, its effects, and the development and implementation of education and training programs. The Kyoto Protocol (2005) and the Paris Agreement (2016) highlight the role of education in promoting climate change resilience and adaptation.

Climate change education has also made its way into the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (2015), specifically targets 4.7 and 13.3. In 2016, UNESCO and UNFCCC adopted the Guidelines on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), which focused on the six priority areas mentioned in the 1992 UNFCC Convention. In 2021, the Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) stipulated that environmental education should be a core curriculum component by 2025. As a means of promoting climate change adaptation, the Kenya NCCAP 2018-2022 recommends the need to integrate climate change into the education system.

Why Climate Change Education?

UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index reveals that 1 billion children are at ‘extremely high risk of the impacts of climate change[6]. That is nearly half of all children and it is happening today. Let alone being a climate crisis, it has yielded to a water crisis, education crisis, and health crisis. Children are not able to attend school due to increased flooding, increased heatwaves, drought, scarcity of water, and lack of even food to sustain their lives.

Education is a critical tool to help populations understand and address the impacts of climate change, and to encourage changes in attitudes and behavior. Climate change education enhances the resilience of vulnerable groups and communities with mitigation and adaptation strategies, especially in low-income countries that are disproportionately affected by these changing conditions. Education systems require a strong voice and presence in climate change discussions and the need to be prepared to respond to current and future challenges associated with the climate crisis.

When we enable children and young people as agents of change, there is an unparalleled opportunity to address the climate crisis both in the present (with the children, their peers, and households) and in the long term as they become decision-makers. Only if we understand the problems will we be able to develop appropriate responses to all the economic and societal changes that will emerge due to climate change. Teaching the next generation about climate change is essential as children can grasp and further contribute to the measures of adapting and mitigating climate change.

Climate Action STARTS with Tailored Curriculum 

  • As the Kenya Ministry of Education scales up the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), it’s an opportune time to mainstream tailored climate change content in curriculum delivery. The mainstream needs to be context specific to ensure that content is tailored to unique needs and realities of communities.
  • The Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KCID) has an opportune time to ensure climate change content is availed in subjects, especially on certainties, uncertainties, and future projects as well as interests that shape climate change responses.
  • Climate Change responsive institutions such as National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), National Climate Change Council (NCCC), and Research Institutions should also be entrenched into the taught curriculum. These will give learners a wider understanding of the whole issue of climate change and climate action.
  • Revamping the teacher training curriculum to integrate climate change training. This would broaden their understanding and comprehension of the climate Change concept. This can be done through continuous capacity strengthening training on climate change education for in-service teachers.
  • At the tertiary level, Climate studies in Kenya need to jointly house different schools such as engineering, agriculture, arts, social sciences, public policy, and communication, to build up a diverse talent pool needed for climate solutions.
  • In addition to the conventional curriculum, non-formal and informal settings also present excellent opportunities to build applied climate action knowledge and skills.


Authored by Charity Nanjala, MAC Programme Graduate/ YPC Kenya University Liaison Lead

She is passionate about Research, Public Policy, Sustainable Development, and youth empowerment.


[1] The heat is on; A world of climate promises not yet delivered

[2] National Climate Change Action Plan 2018 – 2022

[3] Kenya First NDC (updated version).pdf

[4] The_Kenya_Climate_Change_Act_2016.pdf

[5] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate(UNFCC)

[6] One billion children at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of the climate crisis – UNICEF

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