Climate Change Education in China

Climate Change Education in China

Education and awareness building regarding sustainable development have been part of China’s educational curriculum for over two decades. First policies regulating general environmental protection and climate change education have been promulgated since 1994. In 2003, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued the first policy on environmental education for primary and secondary education: “Guidelines for Implementing Environmental Education in Elementary and Secondary School”. Additionally, provisions regarding education of the public in order to tackle climate change through emission reduction as well as energy and resource savings to ensure the sustainable development of China have found entry into past Five-Year-Plans. More recently, awareness and capacity building on “low carbon emission” behaviour have been inscribed into China’s National Climate Action Plan 2014 -2020. Moreover, the plan links public education and behaviour with fostering innovative thinking, solution seeking and knowledge sharing among industry, university and research to ensure future development and fast adoption of low-emission technologies.

Since the early 2000s, various organisations concerned with environmental education were set up: e.g. the Shanghai Environmental Education Center, a joint program between Shanghai’s Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministries of Education with the aim of fostering environmental education at all levels of schooling; UNEP and Tongji University founded the “Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development” to provide an interdisciplinary and international learning and research platform for sustainable development; China’s oldest NGO “Friends of Nature” which – among other tasks – has been engaging in teacher training on environmental topics.  

Today, primary and secondary schools across China teach environmental topics as part of a “green education” mandate. Topics range from soil desertification, waste separation, biodiversity, the promotion of low carbon travel and responsible consumption, to recycling and behavioral guidance on good “low carbon behaviour”.

The primary school (Grades 1- 6) curriculum focuses on fostering young pupils’ curiosity for their living environment, i.e. animals and plants, how they feed and what they need to thrive. Classes called “Nature” with relevant teaching material are taught in some schools. Depending on teacher and school, topics like CO2, climate change, pollution etc. are taught as part of other courses. Some schools organize “Environmental Protection Days” or extra-curricular lectures. 

Secondary school education (Grades 7 – 9) subsumes education on environmental matters including climate change into the overall science classes like “Chemistry’, “Physics”, “Geography”, “Life Science”. The general approach to the topic is a utilitarian one embedded in the argument that the environment has to be protected in order to continue the economic development of China and secure the well-being of its people, current and future generations. 

Complementing the official curriculum where relevant resources and capacities are short, some schools partner with companies providing knowledge on science topics like chemistry and health, sustainable logistics, forestry or water hygiene. Or they work with organisations like STEM Cloud, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education, to foster the next generation of engineers and scientists able to create innovative technologies to fight climate change. STEM Cloud materials on “air”, “CO2” and science related topics can be downloaded for teachers from their website: The NGO “Friends for Nature” publishes a regular newsletter with information useful for campaigns on current topics like garbage separation.

Official materials do not seem to be publicly accessible through online sources, however, an online search shows up plenty of material tailored to children by concerned teachers or volunteers, as this example from Santang Primary School in Dalian’s Changxing Island Economic Area shows. It starts off explaining why environmental protection is important, what environmental labels and international environmental days are and then delves into a more practical section which looks at protecting biodiversity and the natural environment and provides guidance on how to avoid pollution. Each chapter starts with highlighting the function of a certain environment, before it talks about the damage and everybody’s responsibility to avoid the damage. What is remarkable is that the material also asks the children to engage and influence their parents by sharing their insights and involving them into research for homework, thus exerting subtle pressure on parents to rethink their behavior.

Activity Rating: ★★★ Right Direction but Needs to do More

Education on climate change and environmental protection has been existing in primary and secondary schools across China for over two decades, albeit in different levels of intensity and content depth. As part of the official curriculum, e.g. as part of other science related courses relevant materials are standardized. However, there appear to be no stand-alone courses specific to environmental topics. Teaching climate change and environmental protection beyond the official level seems to depend on the choice of individual teachers who also bring relevant material tailored to their class. Extra-curricular environment or climate change related activities depend vary from school to school and region to region, depending on interest of teachers and willingness of the school management and parents to embrace such topics. While some schools appear to dedicate both curriculum time and extra-curriculum time to education on the impact of human behaviour on environment and climate, other schools seem to stick to the bare minimum. 

Take Action:

Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below. 

We commend China on having recognized early on the need to make knowledge on how to protect the environment and fight climate change available to the public. Policy support of the past 25 years have certainly contributed to fostering today’s generation of university students and young professionals keen on working towards a more sustainable China. At the same time, we believe that with the current climate crises, China can still step up its efforts in the education of its young generation and make dedicated courses on environmental protection and climate change part of the standard curriculum, along with standardized textbooks and teachers’ training. In addition, the government can consider tapping into all available resources and make it easier for NGOs or companies to access schools and supplement academic knowledge with hands-on practical examples on applied science to battle pollution, emissions or help save resources. 


Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China

Minster of Education: Baosheng Chen

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager: Annette Wiedenbach

Chinese translation by Jolin 



在过去的二十多年中,可持续发展教育和相关意识培养已成为中国素质教育的重要内容。 1994年,中国已将环境保护纳入基本国策并颁布了第一批环境保护和气候变化教育的政策。2003年,中国教育部印发了《中小学生环境教育实施指南(试行)》,将环境教育归入中小学生综合实践活动目录。此外,国务院多次将‘推进节能减排增强可持续发展能力’列入国家“五年规划”纲要。最近,“低碳排放”的行为认知和建设纲要也亦被引入《国家应对气候变化规划(2014-2020)》。该规划将公众教育和行为与创新思维培养、解决方案、跨行业、院校和科研机构之间知识共享等联系在一起,以确保未来发展和低碳排放技术的快速普及和应用。

自千禧年初以来,中国陆续涌现了众多环境教育领域的组织机构,例如,上海环境保护宣传教育中心。它隶属上海环境保护局和教育部,为全市所有大中小学生宣传普及环境教育知识。 联合国环境署和同济大学联合成立了“可持续发展环境研究所”,为可持续发展提供了跨学科和跨国界的学习研究平台。中国历史最悠久的非政府组织“自然之友”也拥有与环境主题相关的教师培训业务。



初中教育(7-9年级)将环境问题(包括气候变化)课题归入“化学”、“物理”、“地理”、“生物”等学科学习纲要。 其中心思想向功利主义倾斜,主张必须保护环境,以保证中国经济持续发展,及确保中国人民现在及未来的福祉。

为了拓展课程资源和视角,有学校和一些从事化学健康,可持续物流,林业和水源卫生等领域的企业建立了合作关系。比如有学校和STEM云中心合作。STEM 云中心是一家非营利性组织,致力于提供科学、技术、工程和数学方面教育,旨在孵化下一代工程师和科学家,使其具备应对气候变化技术创新的能力。相关资料可从STEM 运中心以下网站下载:



活动评分:★★★ 方向正确,需要做更多

基于不同课程强度和深度,中国各地的中小学开展气候变化和环境保护教育已经超过二十年。 作为正式课程的一部分,或应该说作为其它学科内容的一部分,相关的教学材料已经标准化,但似乎缺乏针对环境主题的独立课程。在官方教育大纲之外,是否教授气候变化和环境保护课程似乎取决于授课老师的选择,老师们也会根据他们的学生来定制教学内容。相关的课外活动也会因学校所处区域有所差异,很大程度受老师兴趣、学校管理层意愿和父母的接受程度的影响。也就是说,有些学校似乎会将相关课内和课外时间用于人类行为对环境和气候影响的学习,但另一些学校仅完成最简单的课堂教育。






此文由Climate Scorecard国家经理Annette Wiedenbach撰写。



Sources:  参考资料

Qingqing Han, Education for Sustainable Development and Climate Change Education in China: A Status Report, p. 66

China’s National Climate Plan 2014- 2020, p. 39 – 44

Personal experience in corporate environmental education fostering in secondary and tertiary education institutions e.g. through former Bayer Young Environmental Envoy program 

Interviews with parents of children in primary & secondary education in Shanghai, Beijing, Fujian. 



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