The meeting opened with remarks from the co-chairs Veronica Manfredi, Director for Zero Pollution, DG Environment, European Commission and Marieke Schouten, Alderman of the municipality of Nieuwegein, Member of the European Committee of the Regions.
Veronica Manfredi said: "the Zero Pollution Talks initiative aims at exchanging policy ideas and knowledge to raise awareness around how to reach the Zero Pollution ambition that the European Union is committed to. Two years ago, the Zero Pollution Action Plan highlighted the importance of developing a core green skillset for the labour market to guide training across the economy, with a view to creating the generation of climate, environment and health-conscious professionals that we need for the transformation to happen".
Marieke Schouten added: "There is a strong connection between the green agenda, Zero Pollution, and the development of current and future skills. Given these links, we need to consider how we can effectively integrate education and global issues. The Zero Pollution agenda has ambitious goals, making the focus on skills development key".
In her opening statement Sophia Eriksson Waterschoot, Director for ‘Youth, Education & Erasmus+’ in the EC’s DG for Education and Culture, highlighted that "education is so much more than skills and competence. It is also about helping and encouraging individuals and learners to be empowered, to live sustainably and to embrace the whole idea of a Zero Pollution environment".
Manuela Geleng, Director for ‘Jobs and Skills’ in the Commission’s DG for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, said: "now we have a new policy framework that actually focuses on how to make vocational education and training more attuned to the needs of the labour market, the role of the Member States is to set out the implementation plans".
Veronika Safrankova, Head of Brussels Office, UNEP, added: "Green education and skills are essential for addressing the triple planetary crisis. It is a precondition to tackle not only the climate, biodiversity loss, and pollution crises, but also other interconnected threats and risks. Co-creating with young people and equipping them with knowledge and skills is crucial to effectively address this challenge".
The speakers also discussed the significance of adopting a systemic and "whole institution" approach when considering how the educational sector can address the scale and urgency of environmental challenges. This approach involves engaging multiple actors at all levels of government, working across ministries, sectors and disciplines, increasing investments in this area and empowering educational leaders through targeted professional development and training.
Additionally, the speakers highlighted the importance of mainstreaming green skills in the labour market, and vocational education and training. Recognising that different countries and individuals have varying levels of understanding of green transition and green skills also underscores the importance of communication and awareness raising.
The talk recording and additional information about the Zero Pollution Talks initiative can be found here.
- Publication date
- 13 July 2023
- Directorate-General for Environment