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 for 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 ASEAN's 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 the environment. Environmental Education (EE) 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 make informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society for present and future generations.
ASEAN developed and implemented the ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan (AEEAP) 2000-2005, AEEAP 2008-2012, and AEEAP 2014-2018 which ended in 2005 and 2012, respectively. The ASEAN Environment Ministers at their 14th informal meeting in 2013 adopted the AEEAP 2014-2018 as the successor plan to previous AEEAP 2000-2005 and AEEAP 2008-2012.
The AEEAP 2014-2018 serves to realise a clean and green ASEAN with citizens who are environmentally literate, imbued with environmental ethics, willing and capable to ensure the sustainable development of the region through environmental education and public participation efforts.
The ASEAN Environment Ministers also approved the establishment of an ASEAN Working Group on Environmental Education to promote environmental protection through effective environmental education and awareness programme that enhances capacity and capability to adapt and respond to current and emerging environmental threats and challenges, so as to create a dynamic, sustainable, resilient ASEAN Community that will proactively contribute to the achievement of global sustainable development goals 2030 Agenda. The AWGEE shall also 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, and ASEAN dialogue partners.
As guided by the ASCC Blueprint 2025, the key result area and corresponding strategic measure in promoting environmental education (and sustainable consumption and production) are among others as follows:
- Strengthen public-private partnerships to promote the adoption of environmentally-sound technologies for maximising resource efficiency.
- Promote environmental education (including eco-school practice), awareness, and capacity to adopt sustainable consumption and green lifestyles at all levels.
- Enhance capacity of relevant stakeholders to implement sound waste management and energy efficiency
- Promote the integration of Sustainable Consumption and Production strategy and best practices into national and regional policies or as part of CSR activities.
Activities carried out under the purview of the AWGEE include, among others, the ASEAN Eco-schools Award Programme, the ASEAN Plus Three Youth Environment Forum (AYEF), the ASEAN Youth Eco-Champion.
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 next Eco-Schools Award will take place in 2019 in Cambodia, back-to-back with the Fifteenth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment (AMME-15).
With the theme Imagine. Create. Change., the AYEF 2018 aims 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. The theme of this years AYEF is aligned to the AEEAP Target Area 4 on Networking, Collaboration, and Communication.
The ASEAN Youth Eco-Champion is a joint initiative of Brunei Darussalam and Singapore to recognise proactive youths who have contributed to ensuring Green ASEAN initiatives in their respective AMS. The Awarding Ceremony is planned to be held back-to-back with the ASEAN Eco-Schools Awards Programme in 2019.