Local government action on climate change relating to education and communication

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Human values and behavior may result from multiple factors such as, for example, cultural, religious, and other beliefs systems [16, p. 299]. Despite their complexity, substantial changes in human values in the long term and inducing behavioral changes in the short term could be important for CCM [16, p. 300]. However, the link between values and ecologically conscious behavior is often vague because of the wide range of factors involved [16, p. 300]. Nonetheless, these values and behavioral changes could be induced through learning and socialization [16, p. 299]. Thus, education and communication could be crucial in fostering CCM at the local level, and local administrations could take the lead on the matters.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization defines education for sustainable development (ESD) as the education that empowers learners to make informed, responsible decisions for environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations, while also respecting cultural diversity. Education for sustainable development is about lifelong learning and is an integral part of quality education. It is also holistic and transformational education that ad-dresses learning content and outcomes, pedagogy, and the learning environment. It achieves its purpose by transforming society [69]. Education for climate action could empower learners to make informed decisions about CCM and thereby transforming society.

The IPCC states that the aim of an educational program in CCM and climate change adaptation is to represent a collective global problem as individual and collective knowledge and experiences [16, p. 256]. Such an education program would require strategies for disseminating scientific information and would have to advertise practical implications in ways that are understandable to diverse populations [16, p. 256]. For example, institutions could promote strategies for education or communication to different target groups (scholars and non-scholars).

Some European municipalities have noticed the importance of schools in promoting personal values and inducing behavioral changes aligned with climate goals and actions. Supported by different projects, such as BEACON [45] or Three for Climate [70], municipalities from Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria are closely collaborating with some of their local schools to raise awareness about the climate change challenge.

As a complement to education, communication can also induce behavioral changes. Municipalities may have an important role in communicating local information related to climate action (information policies) and also through non-commercial advertising campaigns. Advertising is used to shape consumer purchasing behavior [71]. Local authorities may use a similar strategy to induce behavioral changes in support of climate action. However, it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of advertising campaigns [71], [72]. Nonetheless, some progress has been made in the field of neuroscience. Harris et al. (2019) showed that action- and emotion-based marketing communications that ask individuals to “act,” “share,” “pledge,” or “challenge” are more effective than predominantly rational-based appeals for inducing changes in decision making [72]. 29

Following from the above, Garcia suggests recommendations for municipalities to pursue CCM and links them to appropriate SDG targets.[1]

Education- and Communication-Related Recommendations SDG Targets
Education A.1 - Promote climate change education in schools and other educational institutions 4.7 & 13.3
A.2 - Promote climate change education for citizens not currently enrolled in an education
Communication B.1 - Dissemination of general information on climate change and local environmental conditions
B.2 - Dissemination of information on actions taken by the municipality to mitigate climate change
B.3 - Invest in non-commercial advertising campaigns to increase citizen awareness about the climate change crisis and regenerative responses

The education and communication dimension transverses every other domain, where specific communication strategies are crucial for achieving the proposed measures. For instance, communications campaigns intending to induce a reduction in consumerist behavior is related to the consumption patterns dimension; specific training such as eco-driving courses is related to the transportation and mobility dimension.

When connecting the proposed recommendations to the current SDG targets resulted the Goal 13 (Climate action) and Goal 4 (Quality education), acknowledging in that case, ESD as education for CCM. In relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the proposed recommendations also link to SDG13 (Climate action) and SDG4 (Quality education), in the latter case acknowledging that climate change education is also sustainability education.


  1. Matias Mesa Garcia, 2020. Local Science-based Recommendations and Monitoring for Climate Change Mitigation in the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals - European Municipal Perspectives and Key Indicators. Master thesis. Faculty of Science, University of Lisbon. 248 pp