Abu Dhabi, 30 January 2024 The first day of the 12th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC2024) commenced with vibrant sessions on the pressing challenges faced in environmental education and sustainable development globally, laying the groundwork for comprehensive discussions throughout the five-day event.

In attendance, HH Sheikha Dr. Shamma Bint Mohammad Bin Khaled Al Nahayan, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalid Al Nahyan Cultural and Educational Institutions who stated: “Following the successful hosting of COP28 in the UAE, we are proud to announce the 12th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC2024) in Abu Dhabi. We firmly believe that the Earth is not merely a place of residence; it is our shared home with countless living beings and species.”

Her Highness emphasized that the conference's focus on environmental education for the upcoming generations represents genuine hope. It provides future generations with the chance to understand the significance of environmental efforts, fostering the preservation of sustainability and biodiversity for the well-being of humanity. She commented: "I am delighted to participate in the conference, showcasing the pivotal role of public benefit societies in nurturing environmental awareness. I highlighted the contribution of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan’s cultural and educational institutions to environmental, educational, and awareness initiatives. The significant environmental challenges persist, and placing confidence in individuals' self-awareness is a successful strategy, provided we are committed to reinforcing it through heightened awareness, environmental education, and supportive legislation. Under the esteemed leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, the UAE sets an exemplary model for sustainable environmental endeavors toward the future."

The morning commenced with Plenary 1, featuring keynote addresses by distinguished speakers. HE Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), urged responses from governments, education systems, and learners in the face of planetary crisis, emphasising: “For the world to succeed in mitigating the impacts of the Triple Planetary Crisis, we must double down on our efforts in Environment Education and Education for Sustainable Development. WEEC and its members are essential in this regard, providing the inspiration, knowledge, and practical solutions needed to influence responses from governments, educational systems, and learners at all levels. The expertise and real-world solutions are critical components of our collective response to these crises.”

Jack Dangermond, President of Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), also part of the plenary, shed light on the role of science and technology in shaping education and learning systems. In his keynote speech, he remarked, "In our dynamic journey toward sustainability, science and technology, especially through Geographic Information Systems (GIS), play a pivotal role in building the evidence base for action. Geography’s significance is transformative in addressing intricate challenges related to sustainability and climate resilience."

Following the impactful keynotes, the plenary transitioned into a High-Level Leaders' Discussion Panel, where experts continued discussions on critical environmental issues. The panel included HE Dr Amna bint Abdullah Al Dahak Al Shamsi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Lorenzo Fioramonti, former Education Minister, Italy,  HE Mamo Boru Mamo, Director-General, National Environment Management Authority, Africa, Ginger Potter, Senior Education Specialist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and highlighted the valuable insights from traditional communities on living lightly on the planet and the inspiring accounts from modern communities illustrating tangible actions for sustainability in learning spaces. The discussion further underscored the pivotal role of leaders and systemic interventions in steering the education system towards a greener paradigm. Underlining the transition towards developing green skills, the session highlighted the decisive impact this shift has on moving towards Green Jobs.

In parallel with the plenaries, day one featured workshops that delved deeper into addressing challenges, goals, dimensions and means in the context of Environmental Education, fostering more intimate and interactive discussions. Some of the notable workshops included sessions on addressing the urgent matter of reducing plastic waste in the Red Sea, building green school grounds, and encouraging outdoor learning and water conservation initiatives.

Simultaneously, experts explored discussions around Holistic Environmental Understanding and Educator Practices and Approaches for Environmental Awareness, bringing attention to the diverse facets of environmental education.

Taking place within WEEC, the Youth Environmental Education Conference (YEEC) welcomed attendees in four languages, setting the stage for a diverse and inclusive experience. The session ‘Hopes & Expectations on YEEC’ featured a fishbowl format, fostering active participation and dialogue among participants about their expectations for the conference. The ongoing Youth GPT session aimed to debunk myths and generate sustainable knowledge. The day also included a live competition - Envirospellathon App - showcasing students' climate change knowledge and contributing to interactive and engaging learning experiences.

While Day One provided a platform to discuss necessary changes, today (Day Two) will identify the goals crucial for shaping a transformative global change. Day Three investigates the ‘dimensions and means’ shining a spotlight on collaboration, values, and cultural diversity and Day Four summarises the key learnings, and takeaways and translates them into agreed actions that will be implemented beyond the event to align with the identified goals. The fifth and last day of the congress features five field trips, inviting participants to explore Abu Dhabi's ecological and educational sites, seamlessly integrating theory into hands-on experiences.

Those interested can register online or at the venue in Abu Dhabi until 1 February 2024. WEEC 12 | Registration (weec2024.org)

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