Policy name: Mandatory Climate Change Education for Students in Italy
Overview: Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, Italian students in every grade will learn about climate change and sustainability, bringing Italy to the forefront of environmental education worldwide.
Population: 60.5 million
Food policy category: Sustainability; Climate Change and Environment
Program goals: To educate students of all ages about the world’s current “climate emergency” and how to work against it through sustainability efforts in order to make Italy a leader in fighting climate change.
How it works: The Italian education ministry is transforming its model to put climate change and sustainability at the core of its curriculum. Each year, teachers at all grade levels will be required to include 33 hours of education about climate change and related topics. The lessons will be integrated into existing civics classes, as well as other traditional subjects such as geography, math, and physics.
Progress to date: Italian Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti announced the mandated change on November 5, 2019.
Why it is important: Thousands of scientists around the world signed a recent study warning that human activities are causing a climate emergency and that our entire ecosystem is in danger. The climate emergency can be seen in an increase of extreme weather events, rising temperatures on land and in the ocean, and rising sea levels, all of which will ultimately make large portions of land and water unlivable for humans and other animals. Population growth, meat consumption, air travel, loss of trees, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy consumption are all contributing to the problem.
Climate change affects the amount and quality of crops grown for human and animal nutrition. There is limited availability of clean water for drinking and irrigation, flood damage, increased survival rate of pests in warmer temperatures, and decreased pollination. The higher ocean temperatures are dangerous for sea life, including fish that people eat. Livestock production diminishes with climate change, as heat decreases fertility and a reduction in crops limits the animals’ nutrient intake and survival rates. As both animal and plant-based foods become harder to produce, prices of staple foods may increase and it may become more difficult for low-income individuals and families to access and afford nutritious foods.
Scientists agree that people are not working fast enough, nor are they taking the issue seriously enough, to reverse the effects of climate change before it is too late. Fioramonti hopes that mandatory education will encourage all Italians to be more environmentally conscious and make Italy a global leader in the fight against climate change.
Program/Policy initiated: The new curricula will be implemented in the 2020-2021 school year.
Point of contact: n/a
Similar practices: In May 2019, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill that would make climate change education mandatory starting in fifth grade, but the bill has not yet passed in the Senate. Italy is the first country to mandate climate change education in schools.
Evaluation: There has not been any evaluation because the policy has not yet been implemented.
- Climate Change (United Nations)
- Climate Change Education (Stanford University)
- Climate Change Research (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Global Climate Change (NASA)
- Most Teachers Don’t Teach Climate Change; 4 in 5 Parents Wish They Did (NPR)
- Bill Mandating the Teaching of Climate Change Brings Out Science Skeptics in the Connecticut House (Hartford Courant)
- Climate Change and Global Food Systems: Potential Impacts on Food Security and Undernutrition (The Annual Review of Public Health)
- Climate Crisis: 11,000 Scientists Warn of “Untold Suffering” (The Guardian)
- Italy’s Students Will Get a Lesson in Climate Change. Many Lessons, in Fact. (The New York Times)
- Italy to Become First Country to Make Learning About Climate Change Compulsory for School Students (CNN)
- Italy to Become First Country to Make Studying Climate Change Compulsory in Schools (CBS News)
- More than 11,000 Scientists Officially Declare a “Climate Emergency” (CBS News)