ETUCE Closing Conference in Brussels: Mobilising education trade unions to act on the climate emergency


On the 27th and 28th of October 2022, the Closing Conference of the two-year project co-funded by the European Commission entitled “Education for Social Change: The role of Education Trade Unions in addressing sustainable development” took place in Brussels.

Over the course of the two-day Conference, around 90 participants, representing education trade unions from 24 countries across Europe, engaged in animated discussions on how to build the capacity of education trade unions to address the impact of the climate emergency on the education sector.

In light of the Conference, ETUCE European Director, Susan Flocken, reiterated that ETUCE and its member organisations’ commitment to “fighting for social change and a sustainable future of Europe, based on a fair and inclusive green transition that leaves no one behind” and demanded “more and long-term public investment in education to better prepare educational professionals and education institutions for the future.”

Building on the findings of the project research report and following a Kick-Off Conference and two training workshops in Rome and Copenhagen, the Closing Conference provided the opportunity to discuss the key findings and outcomes of the project among education trade unions, European stakeholders, and policy makers in education and climate change and environmental policies.

The Conference served as a platform for the launch of a project research report based on an online survey of 44 ETUCE member organisations. The report underscores the major challenges faced by the education sector and education workers in regard to the environment, climate emergency and sustainable development. The report additionally analyses the way in which education trade unions address the complex topic of environmental sustainability, particularly in and through social dialogue. Considering this, the research provides policy recommendations for national and EU policymakers on implementing environmental sustainability within education informed by the perspective of education trade unions.

The Conference further provided a stage for the première of a film documentary entitled “Education for Sustainable Future – Inspiring Practices from Europe,” that was prepared in the framework of the project. The documentary highlights best practice from Belgium, Italy, and Denmark, demonstrating the transformative impact that education for sustainable development can have on students.

On the second day of the Conference, participants had the opportunity to discuss and mould practical guidelines for education trade unions on addressing environmental issues and sustainable environmental development in the education sector. These practical guidelines aim to carry out further strategic discussions and decisions on education trade unions’ capacity to explore the impact of climate emergency on education, support teachers, academics, and other education personnel in implementing environmental sustainability education, and secure their place in the design and assessment of the implementation of national and European climate strategies.  

Throughout the course of the Closing Conference, representatives from various member organisations as well as the European Commission, UNESCO, European Parents Association, OBESSU, and other international organisations, spoke on a diverse range of topics from outlining the international perspectives on education for environmental sustainability to underscoring the key role of social dialogue in education for social change to listening to the youth perspective on how to address environmental sustainability and trade union renewal.

ETUCE project on education for environmental sustainability - Brussels 27-28 October 2022