Marcia McKenzie, director of the Sustainability Education Research Institute in USask’s College of Education. (Photo: Meagan Hinther)

USask researcher examines UN climate change education

According to the United Nations, education and training is a crucial part of tackling climate change.

Three landmark UN policy programs aim to empower and support governments to accelerate solutions through education, training and public awareness as they work to mitigate and adapt to climate change. For University of Saskatchewan researcher Dr. Marcia McKenzie (PhD) and her international collaborators, understanding how these UN policy programs are shaped will help ensure the effectiveness of climate change education (CCE) around the world.

“We know from previous research that the level and quality of engagement with sustainability issues in education has been significantly influenced by UN policy programs in the past,” said McKenzie, director of the Sustainability Education Research Institute in USask’s College of Education. “Therefore, it is important that newly developing policy programs are as strong as possible in order to have the most impact.”

McKenzie, who was recently awarded nearly $280,000 in an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, will examine governmental and non-governmental influences on UN policy programs as it relates to climate change education.

“The research will provide a better grasp of gaps and opportunities in policy development so that policy-makers can address them appropriately, as well as contributing to scholarly understandings of intergovernmental policy development and mobility,” said McKenzie.

Data collection for results that have real-world impact

Using a “network ethnography” method, McKenzie and her team will blend meeting observation, in-depth interviewing, and quantitative social network analysis methods to develop a deeper understanding of how various influences impact policy development in CCE.

“Through data collection with UN Secretariat staff, UN chairs, UN report authors, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and others, we will be able to work in and around policy-makers and remain flexible with the research design, which will help us get a more complete picture of what is happening,” McKenzie said.

According to McKenzie, this mixed-method approach allows the team to develop solutions and applications for enhancing CCE on an international scale.

“Climate change education can help everyone—from policymakers to individuals—understand the urgency and importance of putting mechanisms into place to combat climate change on regional, national and global scales,” she said. “Through targeted knowledge mobilization to intergovernmental and governmental policy decision-makers, the results are expected to strengthen the transparency and quality of current and future UN policy programs.”

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