Marrakech, Morocco, UNFCCC COP22 — On November 15, 2016, the Air Pack was showcased at a side event organised by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS) in partnership with the REC and the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA).
Following a decade of international research to improve school environments and the respiratory health of children, the Air Pack, an educational toolkit, translates the School Environment and Respiratory Health of Children (SEARCH) Initiative recommendations into a user-friendly format for school teachers and students. Piloted in Italy and Albania, the Air Pack has become a recognised tool for integrating health, climate and environment issues into the education sectors in Europe and beyond.
This event in Morocco provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the Air Pack as a best practice for raising awareness among decision makers, policy makers, agencies and other stakeholders on the impacts of climate change on children’s health, and the increase in climate-related threats to outdoor and indoor air quality.
The event was opened by Francesco La Camera, director general of IMELS. Besides praising the results of the international team, he also highlighted that “education is an important component of the Paris Agreement, as Article 6 of UNFCCC and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement encourage the promotion of climate change awareness through education.”
After the opening address, Adriana Valenzuela, focal point for education, training and public awareness at the United Nations, said: “While the Marrakech Climate Summit is the ‘COP of Actions’, we also need to empower all citizens to take action.”
The REC's executive director, Marta Szigeti Bonifert, briefly introduced various projects implemented with the support of IMELS related to education, capacity building, and developing networks of excellence — each of which addresses challenges that are the focus of international processes such as the UN 2030 Agenda, Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, or Article 6 of the UNFCCC.
“Children should be not only passive actors, but active actors — the involvement of children is crucial,” noted Elisabetta Colaiacomo of IMELS. “In the long term, children should be empowered to be able to contribute to the UN SDGs”, she added.
In the second half of the side event, Mihallaq Qirjo, acting deputy executive director of the REC (with input from Francesca De Maio of ISPRA) and Luciana Sinisi, head of the Unit for Environmental Determinants of Health at ISPRA, introduced the scientific and educational backgrounds of the Air Pack. “Challenges vary from country to country”, said Qirjo, “but teachers and kids can take small steps that can improve air quality significantly.”
Sinisi’s presentation highlighted interlinking contexts between recent innovations, climate challenges, social issues, education and indoor air quality. “The empowerment and education of families and children can help to overcome challenges”, she remarked.
The side event closed after a round of comments and questions from the floor. “Pollution is a lack of respect for life”, one participant summed up.
For more information, please see the Air Pack; the website of the SEARCH Initiative; the website of the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea; and the website of the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research.
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