Teachers and education support personnel in Portugal take action to protect the planet - Spotlight on FNE’s inspiring work on education for sustainability


Following the Closing Conference of ETUCE's two year-long project on the role education trade unions in addressing sustainable environmental development, we are putting a spotlight on the inspiring environmental practices of our members. 

Since early 2020, ensuring that education enhances sustainability and improves planetary wellbeing has been a key area of activity for the National Federation of Education (FNE), a federation of seven teacher and three education support personnel trade unions in Portugal. FNE has, however, taken a novel approach to enhancing sustainability to tackle climate change. Identifying that its activities in education for sustainability should not be limited to educators and teachers alone, it is carrying out its work through its Association for Training and Research in Education and Work (AFIET) in order to target wider society. Ultimately, FNE believe that a broad strategy that goes beyond its membership will help to demonstrate that trade unions do more than just negotiate and debate labour issues; unions can also mobilise a people to come together to protect the planet for all.

ETUCE spoke with the Deputy Secretary-General of FNE, José Ricardo and FNE’s Executive Commissioner, Joaquim Santos, to find out more about the union’s inspiring work. Read the interview with FNE below!

When did FNE start working on issues of environmental sustainability?

FNE started working on issues of environmental sustainability in 2020 through celebrating specific international days that highlighted environmental issues with students in schools. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, served to slow down the progress of our work on education for sustainable environmental development. As a result, we are particularly motivated to begin to start working with local municipalities as well as NGOs to address themes related to environmental sustainability once again.

What does this work on environmental sustainability and these activities mean for FNE members?

FNE’s members have warmly welcomed our focus on environmental sustainability. Our work on environmental sustainability has manifested in us joining Education International’s Climate Network and in us renewing our focus on how to integrate crucial questions regarding planetary health into the national curriculum in Portugal.

How does the work carried out under your education for sustainability programme intersect with your work looking to overcome other major challenges that teachers face today?

Most individuals in Portugal are deeply conscious of environmental issues and the impacts of climate change on all aspects of life. FNE’s members are no exception, our teachers and educational professionals know that it is important to speak out about environmental issues due to the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change on all aspects of our lives.  

How has your work been informed by the powerful movement of teachers in Portugal, and across the world, for climate action?  

Teachers and educators in Portugal feel impelled to take action to protect the planet. We understand this and feel a responsibility to support them in carrying out their initiatives.

Finally, what are the future plans of FNE with regard to teaching and sustainability?

FNE is currently in the process of defining activities for 2023 and we are looking to engage more strongly in environmental and sustainability related topics in this upcoming year. It is important to us that we look to combat the climate emergency by working in partnership with teachers, schools, students, NGOs and other social partners in education.


Are you an ETUCE member organisation? Get in touch if you would like for us to spotlight your inspiring environmental practices