ASEAN, as elsewhere, has always been confronted with an enormous challenge in keeping a delicate balance of environmental sustainability and economic development. Despite an abundance of natural resources, increased population and rapid economic growth as well as growing industrialisation have essentially exerted increasing pressures on the available natural resources and brought along various environmental issues. It has also led to increased consumption of resources and generation of waste, resulting in unsustainable development.
ASEAN recognised the need of great transformation to tip the scale back to a balance of people, planet, profit for sustainable development. Such transformation will require a change in how ASEANs people think and act. Individuals need to have the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower them to contribute to sustainable development.
Environmental education is therefore an important pillar in ASEAN cooperation on environment. Environmental education has been defined as the process of helping people, through formal and non-formal/informal education, to acquire understanding, skills and values that will enable them to participate as active and informed citizens in the development of an ecologically sustainable and socially-just society. It empowers learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society for present and future generations.
ASEAN Working Group on Environmental Education (AWGEE) was established to function as a consultative forum to promote coordination and collaboration among various relevant ASEAN sectoral bodies and dialogue partners to ensure a well-coordinated and integrated approach to promoting environmental education in ASEAN Member States (AMS), and ASEAN Dialogue Partners.
The ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan (AEEAP) was developed for the period of 2000-2005, 2008-2012, and 2014-2018 to serve as a roadmap of actions related to environmental education and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at national and regional level, to contribute to the implementation of the ASCC Blueprint 2010-2025 and attainment of Sustainable Development Goals, as well as to complement the implementation of the ASEAN Work Plan on Education 2016-2020.
As guided by the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2025, key result area and corresponding strategic measures in promoting environmental education (and sustainable consumption and production) are as follows:
(i) Strengthen public-private partnerships to promote the adoption of environmentally-sound technologies for maximising resource efficiency.
(ii) Promote environmental education (including eco-school practice), awareness, and capacity to adopt sustainable consumption and green lifestyles at all levels.
(iii) Enhance capacity of relevant stakeholders to implement sound waste management and energy efficiency.
(iv) Promote the integration of Sustainable Consumption and Production strategy and best practices into national and regional policies or as part of CSR activities.
In view of the development of the ASEAN Strategic Plan on Environment (ASPEN) and the ASCC Blueprint 2025, AMS reviewed the AEEAP 2014-2018 and integrated selected elements of AEEAP to Strategic Priority 6 or AWGEE Action Plan of the ASPEN.
Efforts under this Strategic Priority will focus on four programmatic areas: (i) ASEAN Eco-school Programme, (ii) ASEAN Green Higher Education Programme, (iii) Regional Communication, Education and Public Awareness Initiatives, and (iv) Sustainable Consumption and Production.
Key activities carried out under the AWGEE Action Plan are, among others:
ASEAN Eco-schools Programme
The ASEAN Eco-school Programme aims at creating a school culture geared towards environmental protection and preservation through management, commitment and infusion into curriculum, co-curriculum and greening and cleaning activities. Such activities are dedicated to education, facilitating and inspiring school communities to protect and sustain the environment, be it in schools, at home, in the community, within the society and the nation at large. Currently, several AMS have already implemented the eco-school programme such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.
Guidelines on ASEAN Eco-schools
Under the framework of AEEAP 2008-2012, Guidelines on ASEAN Eco-schools was developed by the AWGEE in 2010 in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, and was further adopted by the ASEAN Environment Ministers in 2011, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Guidelines has been used as a reference and regional standard for environmentally friendly model schools in the region.
ASEAN Eco-schools Award
Meanwhile, the ASEAN Eco-schools Award aims to recognise exemplary efforts of eco-schools in AMS in inculcating environmental awareness in every aspect of education to their students and surrounding communities. The first and second ASEAN Eco-schools Awards were conducted in Malaysia in July 2012, and in Myanmar in July 2015, respectively. The ASEAN Eco-schools Award is now held every four years. The next Eco-Schools Award will take place in 2019 in Cambodia, back-to-back with the celebration of the ASEAN Environment Year at the sidelines of the 15th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment (AMME).
ASEAN Green Higher Education Programme
Led by the Philippines, the ASEAN Green Higher Education Programme is currently being developed to generate baseline data on eco-friendly initiatives of colleges and universities in the ASEAN Region. Specifically, the programme aims to (i) include country review of the state of greening of higher education institutions among AMS; (ii) review the ASEAN Eco-schools Guidelines to include a Higher Education Category; and (iii) target the inclusion of Higher Education category in the next ASEAN Eco-schools Awards. The programme is expected to be implemented in 2019.
Regional Communication, Education and Public Awareness Initiatives
ASEAN Plus Three Youth Environment Forum
Acknowledging that environmental awareness and participation of youths are critical to address global environmental problems and to achieve sustainable development in the region, the ASEAN Plus Three Youth Environment Forum (AYEF) was first initiated by Brunei Darussalam in 2007 and has since been organised regularly to promote awareness and enhance the participation and cooperation of youth in environmental protection efforts. The hosting of AYEF is based on voluntary initiative of AMS. Following the AYEF 2007 in Brunei Darussalam, the project was implemented in 2010 and 2013 in Brunei Darussalam, and in 2016 in Singapore.
Outputs of the initiative are, among others, pledges that participants will commit to and share the importance of a sustainable future amongst youths when they return to their home countries, as well as expanded networking and communication amongst youths from ASEAN Plus Three countries. On the latter, all participants are encouraged to join and make use of the current ASEAN+3 Youth Networking Facebook group and other social media platforms to promote sustainable development.
In 2018, AYEF was conducted with the theme Imagine. Create. Change., from 30 June to 2 July in Singapore to encourage youths in ASEAN to think of their ideal future environment and take action to make the changes required with a focus on challenging youths to reduce their carbon footprint to mitigate the effects of climate change. Activities of the Forum included plenary presentations by keynote speaker and experts on environmental topics, workshops on behavioural insights and climate change communications, country presentations and field trip to Singapores installations. The next AYEF will be hosted by Thailand in 2019.
ASEAN Youth Eco-champions Award
The ASEAN Youth Eco-champions Award (AYECA) is a joint initiative of Brunei Darussalam and Singapore to recognise proactive youths as young AMS citizens who have made outstanding contributions in protecting the environment. The Award will be given to two youths from each AMS who have been active for at least two years and implemented successfully any green initiatives within the past five years; and have contributed to realising a clean and green environment in his/her respective country.
The Award Ceremony is planned to be held in Cambodia in 2019, in conjunction with ASEAN Eco-School Award Presentation Ceremony during the ASEAN Environment Day Week, at the sidelines of the 15th AMME. Call for nominations and the AYECA Guidelines will be published and disseminated through ASEAN Environment website in due course.
ASEAN Environment Year
Launched in 2000 in Brunei Darussalam, the ASEAN Environment Year was celebrated every three years to showcase ASEANs achievements and commitments to environmental management and protection as well as to promote public awareness on environmental issues in general. After having been rebranded into ASEAN Environment Day in 2016, it is now celebrated every two years at the sideline of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment (AMME). The last ASEAN Environment Day was held in 2017 in Brunei Darussalam in conjunction with the ASEAN ESC Award Presentation Ceremony at the sideline of the 14th AMME. The next celebration of the ASEAN Environment Day will be organised in July 2019 in Cambodia, back-to-back with the AYECA and the ASEAN Eco-schools Award, at the sidelines of the 15th AMME.
Sustainable Consumption and Production
ASEAN Plus Three Leadership Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP)
The ASEAN Plus Three Leadership Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is one of ASEANs flagship activities implemented annually since 2008 under the environmental education stream, to contribute to the implementation of the AEEAP 2008-2012 and its successor plan of 2014-2018. Over the last decade, the programme has been implemented under the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation platform and has been supported by the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), UNEP SWITCH Asia, UNIDO and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF).
After ten successful offerings of the said Programme extending over the period 2008-2017, and given the transition from the ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan (2014-2018) to the broader scope of the ASPEN pursuant to the ASCC Blueprint 2025 and global SCP Framework, the Programme will be redesigned in order to cater to more sectors and strengthen its impacts in capacity development in the ASEAN region. The next ASEAN Plus Three Leadership Programme on SCP is planned to be organised in 2019.