Italy to put sustainability and climate at heart of learning in schools

(Reposted from: The Guardian.  November 6, 2019)

Italy is to become the first country in the world to make sustainability and climate crisis compulsory subjects for schoolchildren.

State schools will begin incorporating the UN’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development into as many subjects as possible from September, with one hour a week dedicated to themes including global heating and humans’ influence on the planet.

Other subjects, including geography, mathematics and physics, will also be taught from the perspective of sustainability, announced Lorenzo Fioramonti, Italy’s education minister.

“The entire [education] ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the centre of the education model,” said Fioramonti, a former economics professor who was criticised earlier this year for encouraging students to miss school to take part in climate protests.

“I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.”

Fioramonti, a member of the pro-environment Five Star Movement, is the government’s most vocal supporter of green policies and has previously come under fire for proposing taxes on airline tickets, plastic and sugary foods in order to generate funds for education and welfare.

However, the government’s 2020 budget, presented to parliament this week, included a tax on both plastic and sugary drinks.

Fioramonti said that despite initial opposition to his ideas, the government seemed increasingly invested in greener policies.

“I was ridiculed by everyone and treated like a village idiot, and now a few months later the government is using two of those proposals and it seems to me more and more people are convinced it is the way to go.”

Surveys have shown that up to 80% of Italians back taxing sugar and flights, but industry producers oppose the plastic tax, arguing the “measure penalises products, not behaviour, and only represents a way to recover resources, while placing huge costs on consumers, workers and businesses”.

Fioramonti’s proposals have also come under direct fire from Matteo Salvini, Italy’s climate science-denying former deputy prime minister, whose far-right League voted against almost all key climate proposals in the last parliament.

However, Fioramonti said his ministry would stand strong against the opposition. “I want to represent the Italy that stands against all the things that Salvini does,” he said. “We have to build a different narrative and not be afraid of saying something Salvini may not like, because that’s why we exist.”


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