Climate Change Education in China Analysis of Existing CCE Organizations, development of CCE

Climate Change Education in China: Analysis of Existing CCE Organizations, development of CCE


Today, schools and other educational institutions in China teach environmental topics on climate change and sustainable energy utilization as part of the “green education” mandate in the country. The environmental topics range from “carbon emissions” from various human activities, “sources and consequences of climate change” in the country, “behavioral guidance” on sustainable energy utilization, and “mitigatory actions” to control and prevent derogatory carbon production (Wiedenbach, 2020). Primary school curriculums focus on “stimulating junior pupils’ curiosity” on their living environment and topics like CO2 while secondary school curriculums subsume environmental and educational matters into broad topics of chemistry, physics and geography (Wang, 2021). Additionally, there are several climate change education organizations in the country that complement conventional teaching by fostering climate activism among the youth and rallying the whole public to take action against climate change by engaging in sustainable energy and resource utilization. These organizations work with the government, schools, and the local community to provide basic and advanced information on the current status in China, create innovative technologies to fight climate change, as well as contribute to policy and curriculum development in schools. This paper seeks to explore the development of these Climate Change Education (CCE) Organizations in China over the past twenty years by traversing the factors that have actively led to their proliferation in recent time.

The first part of this paper gives a comprehensive background for the research by detailing the developmental timelines for CCE organizations and climate change education in the country. It states some of the CCE organizations considered for this research and their contributions to CCE education in China. The second part is an extensive literature reviews that reconnoiters the characteristics of CCE organizations in the Chinese context by stating their fundamental features while separating them from other global CCEs. To further explore the development of CCE organizations in China, the literature review section explores the various factors that have contributed to CCE efforts and organizations in the country as well as providing an analysis of the challenges facing these organizations.

Research Background

Education and cognizance building regarding sustainable development, climate change, and global warming have been part of China’s educational curriculum over the past two decades. China introduced Climate Change Education (CCE) into its curriculum in the late 1990s due to increased global and national attention to sustainable socio-economic development that proactively protected the environment and the rising, irreversible dangers of climate change (Wiedenbach, 2020). After the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, climate change education in China strongly gravitated towards preparing learners to understand the causes and consequences of climate change, developing national policies for effective response to the global situation, as well as empowering students to take appropriate actions towards advocating for, and living more sustainable lifestyles. Since the adoption of “Guidelines for Implementing Environmental Education in Elementary and Secondary Education” in 2003 and China’s “National Climate Action Plan 2014-2020,” various organizations and institutions have sprung up across the country to help schools and universities realize the goals of the CCE curriculum. They include the China Youth Climate Action Network, a non-profit environmental organization that focuses on empowering China’s youth and university students to advocate for climate change; Tsinghua University, a comprehensive research institution actively engaged in creating, developing, and disseminating innovative ideas on sustainable energy systems, and the Hong Kong Combat Climate Change Coalition, an alliance between the government and private actors working on solving Hong Kong’s climate crises.

Research Questions

The following research questions will explore the development of CCE organizations in China.

What Characterizes CCE organizations in the Chinese Context?

What environmental, economic, and historical factors have contributed to augmenting CCE organizations and efforts across the country?

What challenges do CCE organizations face today?

Literature Review

In this section, I provide a comprehensive overview of the characteristic features of China’s CCE organizations as well as the environmental, economic, and historical factors that have contributed to their growth over the past two decades. Some of the challenges facing CCE organizations in the country are also discussed through the nexus of existing literature.

Characteristics of Chinese CCE organizations


The Shanghai Environmental Education Center, a joint program between Shanghai’s Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministries of Education, UNEP, and Tongji University founded the “Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development” to provide an interdisciplinary and international learning environment for Chinese students in matters related to climate change (Lee, 2007). Therefore, one of the characteristic features of Chinese CCE organizations is that they are proactively engaged in offering education to students on this contemporary mater. Lee (2018) believes that education significantly encourages people to change their attitudes and regulate their behaviors on climate matters. On the other hand, Cordero et al. (2020) state that offering developmental education for children on matters pertaining to climate change is critical for concise building because it makes them aware of their “individual lifetime carbon emission levels.” When developing the rubric for “National and World-System Explanations of Educational Reforms,” Ginsburg et al. (1990) identified climate change as one of the factors leading to educational reforms in many countries across the globe. Educational policy developers are therefore concerned about the role of education in raising environmentally concise and ideologically woke students.

Chinese CCE organizations see to it that teachers are well trained on matters pertaining environmental conservation and climate change. Some of the organizations actively engaged in providing comprehensive teacher-training lessons on climate change include the Shanghai Environmental Education Center, the China-UK low carbon college in Shanghai, Shangri-la Institute for Sustainable Communities, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences- “Climate change, the development of the Arctic waterway, and the prospects for Sino-European cooperation” (UIL, 2020; Q. Wang et al., 2022, and Chen, 2020). The Ministry of Education Service Center and the National Institute of clean and low carbon energy are governmental organizations that regulate policies on climate change education as well as develop response actions for students as they receive these pertinent instructions (Tian & Wang, 2015). Environmental subjects taught in primary and secondary schools in the country are part of the “green education mandate” which seeks to ensure that all students are introduced to environmental matters affecting their lives. Land degradation, waste detachment, biodiversity, low-carbon travel and efficient use of natural resources, recycling, and psychosocial guidance on good “low-carbon behavior” are just a few of the topics covered (Wiedenbach, 2020).


Additionally, CCE organizations in the country are actively engaged in environmental and climate change activism. Non-governmental organizations like the “Friends of Nature,” the “Green Earth Volunteers and Wild China Movement,” and the “China Environment” are spearheading environmental activism to the next level (Xu, 2010). These activist CCE organizations are publicly protesting against increasing carbon emissions in the country, filing lawsuits against corporations that contribute to climate change through their exploitive activities, as well as exposing corrupt practices across environmental agencies in China. Dunlap (2015) argues that environmental activism is one of the most successful ways of ensuring that climate action is taken seriously by the government because it indicates an awaken society. World society perspectives also encourage societies to take up activism as one of the most radical but effective ways of advocating for change (Ramirez, 2012). Activist groups in China are therefore advocating for climate change, rallying the society to support climate change, as well as pushing the government to regulate on climate change.

Policy development

China has also created a number of policies and programs connected to education for sustainable development (ESD) and climate change education, recognizing the importance of education in fostering sustainable development (SD) (CCE) (Han, 2015). Climate change and environmental protection education has been taught in Chinese primary and secondary schools for more than two decades, though at varying levels of intensity and topic depth. Relevant materials are standardized as part of the official curriculum as part of other science-related courses. There do not appear to be any stand-alone environmental courses, though (Huang & Cheng, 2022). Beyond the formal level, it appears that teaching climate change and environmental protection is based on the preferences of individual teachers, who also bring relevant material adapted to their class (Wiedenbach, 2020). Environmental or climate change-related extracurricular activities differ from school to school and area to region, depending on instructor interest and the readiness of school administration and parents to embrace such themes. Some schools, however, major on ensuring incorporation of both curriculum and extra curriculum time in educating on the impact of human behavior and climate.

Schools are currently experimenting with new approaches to include sustainability information into education, in addition to developing and implementing dedicated sustainability education curriculum and textbooks. For example, in Beijing, one school teaches sustainability by incorporating the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations into the current school curriculum, particularly connecting each goal with relevant courses for each grade. The other institution takes a “whole school approach” to sustainability, incorporating it into students’ everyday routines on campus. The school, for example, offers a recycling area where students can learn and experience sorting recyclable paper products, various plastic products, hazardous wastes, and useable things for donation. All these efforts have been augmented by CCE organizations that are actively calling for climate change action in the country. They therefore develop new policies and guidelines to guide schools in adopting CCE education as well as help authenticate the new approaches to CCE education in the country.

Sustainability content typically gets lost when integrated into relevant disciplines in China, as it does in many other Asian countries and areas, and is easily overlooked by instructors if the information is not related to standardized tests. Even though the subject is assessed through tests, the methodology often concentrates on test preparation, with little emphasis paid to developing students’ knowledge, attitudes, and values, all of which are important factors in incorporating sustainability lifestyles and behaviors. Furthermore, the high pressure of teaching a standardized curriculum leaves teacher with little time or energy to experiment with new pedagogies or organize extracurricular activities. As a result, in the absence of broader educational reforms and changes in classroom instruction, ‘ongoing curriculum design will need to include more innovative delivery modalities.

Environmental Factors Contributing to growth of CCE organizations and efforts in China

Coordination of environmental factors and economic development has become a global concern, and China’s ecological destruction and pollution have been in the limelight. Applying climate change knowledge could be a possible mitigation to the detrimental proponents that affect China’s environment. Education and creating awareness towards achieving sustainable development have been part of China’s education syllabus for over two decades. Chinese Ministry of Education had established an environmental policy for primary and secondary education known as the “Guidelines for Implementing Environmental Education in Elementary and Secondary Schools (Wiedenbach, 2020). However, China has witnessed an increase in Climate Change Education programs due to the increased industrialization that has been deemed to influence the global climate adversely. The economic factors are linked to numerous environmental sustainability challenges due to its large population, and perhaps this might have shifted the Government’s attention to more CCE programs.

The environmental factors have influenced various CCE programs and efforts across China. A report by CNBC revealed that China’s greenhouse emission is responsible for 27% of total global emissions (Newburger, 2021). The intense environmental issues intrigued China’s desire to participate in CCE programs to enhance a more secure environment for her citizens. Increased greenhouse gas emission has increased China’s efforts to manage climate change. China launched a system known as tradable performance standards (TPS) in July 2021 to help reduce China’s carbon emission by half as of 2060 (Yang & Goulder, 2021). The environment-related literature offers insight into the relationship between the emission of greenhouse gases and how it affects the climate in a particular area. Beijing has implemented policies to help reduce emissions and stem continuous degradation by signing the Paris Agreement in 2015 to pledge carbon neutrality (Maizland, 2021). Practical efforts produce model accomplishments through closing down wasteful warm power plants with a rough limit age of 34.21 GWs from 2006 to 2008 (Khan & Chang, 2018). Examination of energy changes demonstrates the public anticipating green sustainable power assets, e.g., sunlight based, wind, sea, and warm energies. The Chinese Government’s endeavors contributed to administrative measures to beat natural difficulties. Indeed, China is driving the world in the wind power age, with the most outstanding introduced limit contrasted with any state and with continually developing, new wind offices.

Overpopulation has been an environmental factor affecting China’s climate and has been a concern to the federal state. Yao (2021) believes China’s demographic crisis is taking a new toll, and more resources are exhausted. Yao claims that China’s population will reach its peak in the near future, an implication that her vegetative cover will reduce with time. It is no doubt that overpopulation is a significant contributor to global warming. Overpopulation has increased the efforts to promote Climate Change Education in China. To positively influence climate change, the human population has to be controlled. A report by Sustainable Development Goals reveals that China’s National Development and Reform Commission in the country was formed to ensure Chinese citizens are well informed about the detrimental effects of overpopulation on their climate (UN, 2020). China upheld its one-child policy to reduce population pressure and land degradation.

China’s environmental health challenges have been a significant factor that has led to the growth of CCE organizations. China’s groundwater in more than 60% of large towns is contaminated, and her significant rivers are unsuitable for consumption (Khan & Chang, 2018). Insufficient waste disposal facilities and treatment has been the leading cause of health problems influenced by climate change. The water crisis in some parts of China has thwarted arable farmlands into a desert; this is accompanied by poor farming practices and overgrazing which affects the climate. In 2019, Beijing received its first-UN accredited climate educator; project-based climate education had been adopted to help in educating on matters about climate change (Gupta & Gu, 2019). Environmental health challenges as a factor affecting the environment have steered the desire for numerous CCE programs to educate on keeping our environment safe. The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) was moved up to the Service of Environmental Protection (MEP). It acquired gigantic significance as a virtual office of the State Council (Suharman & Karo, 2020). The MEP is answerable for laying out and carrying out homegrown approaches related to contamination and natural issues. It holds an order to assess and carry out natural strategy throughout China. At the same time, the NDRC takes care of the issues related to the advancement and decrease of ozone-depleting substances.

Economic Factors contributing to the growth of CCE organizations and Efforts in China

Climate Change Education relies on economic factors to ensure numerous programs to help carb extreme climatic conditions. According to Zhu et al. (2019), exhaust cloud contamination has turned into an undeniably genuine ecological issue that truly compromises its good financial turn of events. China is one of the globe’s most prominent manufacturing economies; this implies that more effluents are released into the atmosphere (Zhang, 2017). As per the Annual Report on the State of the Environment in China, intense contamination issues and biological annihilation continued until 1996. (Kovaleva et al., 2021) In 1997, enhancements were noted in certain areas. From 1999 forward, the pattern toward escalating natural contamination has been put under broad control interestingly, yet environmental annihilation has stayed a significant issue to date. Manufacturing activities increase the propensity to set up more CCE programs to help monitor unethical economic activities that pose many environmental risks.

The attempt to forge a balance between public and industrial effluents and sustainable economic development has shifted the focus on establishing more CCE programs. A zero-tolerance policy should be adopted to address natural issues and difficulties. In such a manner, public endeavors are made to explain the matter; by taking reasonable steps, serviceable and result-situated procedures to accumulate and carry out the general environmental approaches are accomplished (Khan & Chang, 2018). The Chinese Government has been underway to solve the climate issues related to climate change. It has emphasized environmental protection approaches to reduce emissions into the atmosphere.

China’s desire to overtake the global market might be an economic factor that influences more CCE programs. China’s GDP has expanded by 6.3 times. This accomplishment, notwithstanding, has brought about issues of net energy imports, natural contamination and biological obliteration at home, cross-line contamination, and mounting carbon dioxide (CO2) discharges. Taking a gander at the future, the Chinese Government set up an objective of quadrupling the size of its GDP in 2000 by 2020. Notwithstanding, it is conceivable that this target might decline the issues of energy security, homegrown and territorial climate, and an unnatural weather change, which is providing a reason for concern. This study intends to explain the current state of energy-related and ecological issues hiding behind China’s high development and afterward evaluate what self-improvement homegrown endeavors and worldwide participation will be essential to limit the effects of these issues. This aspect encourages the formation of numerous CCE programs and intensifies the government efforts to uphold economic well-being and the climate of the region.

To ensure more reliable CCE organizations, the financial aspect of environmental performance has to be recognized. Improvement of the financial sector has acquired an eminent significance because of its financial and mechanical developments. Monetary advancement is capable of channelizing the reserve funds of the economy and dealing the financial specialists to keep resources in fluid structures and empower ventures (Wang et al., 2020). The progressions in monetary and innovative areas are coming about with acute effects on ecological execution and influencing climate change. The financial sector offers various assistance by increasing the expansion of industries, albeit causing increased pollution. The formation of CCE programs ensures that they are channeled to educative environmental programs when such financial services are issued.

Ideally, an individual’s willingness to pay for environmental protection has a causal effect on how the CCE programs are managed and how various efforts are implemented to realize a positive climatic change. Economic classes influence types of CCE programs and what should be done to uphold the existing ethics. Since everyone values the quality of the environment, the level of sacrifice towards protecting by contributing a specified amount of money might be a challenge since those with low wages would prefer to satisfy their basic needs. As the financial plan limitation is relaxed, the worth of an extra unit of utilization falls, and the compromise among utilization and environmental quality turns out to be less limited, expanding interest for the last option (Jayachandran, 2021). Besides, in more financially evolved locales like China, individuals are more mindful of the well-being and usefulness expenses of environmental well-being and its influence of climate change, which offers another explanation they could uphold climatic protection.

Historic Factors Leading to growth of CCE organizations and efforts in China

Dalian bay turns black

According to Zhou (2008), this is one of the top-notch disasters brought about by climate change in China which led to contamination of a massive chunk of the land. Previous investigations on the area revealed a shocking revelation that the incident occurred due to the continued release of untreated industrial waste in the area. The loss was enormous since it recorded the damage of approximately 5000 kilograms of sea cucumber and that of shellfish was 100,000 kilograms (Zhao et al., 2014). The year 1972 witnessed an accident that occurred in Dalian Bay where the rising tide brought with it black water and a lot of dead fish (Zhong, 2020). Following this event and the advice of Enlai Zhou, China sent a member to the Stockholm conference where it was noted that environmental degradation does not go down only as a technological problem but also a social and economic problem (Zhong, 2020).

The second event that occurred in the same year took place in Beijing where the fish was poisoned by metals in form of industrial discharge in the surrounding. More alarming was the fact that the individuals who consumed the fish risked their health since they later exhibited signs of poisoning from the fish. Prior to its pollution in 1997, the Guanting Reservoir posed as a major source of water for Beijing. The symptoms displayed by the residents included vomiting, stomach upsets, nausea, and headaches (Ruff, 1989). Current studies have suggested that fish poisoning in its severe case can be detrimental to the point it leads to pain in the muscles and can cause heart attack to the victim (Soni & Verma, 2018). The remedy to fish poisoning is attained through various ways of relieving the severity of the symptoms since the antidote for the same has not yet been achieved by the medical practitioners in line with the response to fish poisoning. Following the investigation was the setting up of a team to deal with the evident pollution in the reservoir. This was the pioneering team of its kind in China to be set up to deal with the adverse effect of pollution. Zhou, who later succumbed to blood cancer in the year of 1976 is seen as a revolutionary leader since under his premier leadership he foresaw the first project aimed towards treating pollution

National conference on Environmental Protection 1973

 After the two historic incidents occurred in China, the Peoples Republic of China which was the main party started to push for efforts to protect China’s environment from the booming industrial activities in China at that time. coupled with the attendance of the Chinese delegate to the conference that took place in Stockholm was the first-ever domestic conference to be held which was the National Conference on Environmental Protection 1973. It was organized by the nation’s planning committee as per the instructions by the state council.

During this conference, several regulations were set up that were to enable the protection of the environment and the improvement of the same going forward. Even though these regulations were only meant to be trials, they soon became permanent upon continuous practice. During the same conference, the youth were also urged to conduct research and to lead the role of educating the other members of the public on the need to protect the environment. The youth were chosen due to their pivotal role in the society which bestowed them as the heir to the leadership of the next generation. In addition, the regulations came with a unique stipulation that necessitated the tertiary learning institutions to award certificates, majors, and honors to courses on environmental education. According to Tian and Li (2016), this move acted as one of the first steps towards achieving environmental education in China which was inclusive of climate change education in the country. Thereafter, some universities around China including Beijing engineering University commenced an offering of environmental courses (Mc Beath et l., 2014). This was a faster rate compared to that witnessed in primary and secondary institutions in the country which was pioneered five years later.

In 1979, China then passed its pioneering environmental law which offered more emphasis on the tertiary institutions to teach environmental courses for the country to end up with specialists who would, in turn, teach the common members of the public who could not make it to the tertiary institutions to learn about climate change themselves (Qu, 1993). In addition, the law emphasized on the content to be taught concerning the environment and climate inclusive where it mandated that the primary and secondary students could be subjected to a certain concentration of content in order not to bombard them but to ensure effective learning. According to Zhu and Dillon (2001), the second national conference on environmental protection was crucial just like the first one since it was during this event that the reigning vice-premier of the country announce that environmental protection would be enacted as a long-term policy of the state. In accordance with the policy, environmental protection studies were included in the biology syllabus at the national level which meant that all syllabi being produced by different publishers were mandated to include the subject matter in their books failure of which would be viewed as defiance to the state policy.

In 2005 when the United Nations embraced the idea that China should enter into a decade of sustainable development because of its huge contributions in terms of industrial emissions, the same body had acknowledged that the first conference held in the country opened gates for a movement and policy that has the potential to steadily restore the country to its environmentally friendly days (McBeath et al.,2014). Climate change is a problem that has firm roots in China and it displays itself through various ways such as flooding of certain areas which lead to the displacement of people. on the same note, climate change education has taken huge strides in the country and is viewed as a remedy to the effect of climate change.

Challenges Facing CCE organizations in China

Limited financial resources 

According to Monroe et al. (2017), climate change education is vital as it coaxes the local population to contribute towards mitigation and adaption of practices that provide a positive impact on climate change. A majority of the climate change education organizations in China are non-Governmental organizations including Shangri -Ia Institute for sustainable communities, the China- UK low carbon college, and the China Association for NGO Cooperation – creative. A huge proportion of these organizations face the problem of acquiring funds since they rely massively on donors and getting donors with the appropriate conditions for funding is an uphill task (Alonso, 2017). Pruneau, khattabi, and Demers (2010) argue that lack of financial resources as a structural challenge makes it near impossible if not impossible to put into practice and implement educational activities regarding climate change education. Furthermore, the climate change education by organizations can begin with efforts such as mobilizing the community through events, these events require funding. Recently, China has marked two decades since it began the incorporation of climate change education into its curriculum. However, required to drive this program is the training of staff and funding of research projects in the universities (Filho et al., 2021). According to (, 2021), nations all over the world are concerned with health and climate, however, they lack proper funding which has been fueled further by the post effects of the COVID 19 pandemic. Without proper funding systems and support from the government and voluntary donors, the efforts towards climate change education are rendered inefficient.  

Failures of environmental policies.

The Chinese political system is aligned in such a way that it prioritizes economic growth over environmental a case which has resulted in a thriving economy but a continued degradation of the environment (Xu & Faure, 2016). In addition, Xu and Faure (2016), continue to argue that whereas there have been environmental policies targeted towards soothing the impacts and causes of climate change, lack of inclusion of the public during the formulation of these policies has been the downfall of the policies. Therefore, teaching these policies in institutions has not been effective due to the dynamism of the policies. The organizations have also found it hard to adapt and align their activities with environmental policies because they change rapidly. According to (Smith, 2015), China produced more stringent policies against environmental degradation. This action provides evidence for the continuous improvements in the environmental policies in the country. 

The complexity of climate change 

From a general understanding, the climate of the earth is complex since it comprises the atmosphere, the water bodies such as the oceans, the land surface, and the flow of energy. The changes in the climatic conditions are a result of the different compositions of the gases in the atmosphere. In its description alone, the atmosphere consists of four zones, therefore understanding climate change is an intricate process. Although climate change is one of the crucial issues of the twenty-first century, understanding the factors that lead to it is complex given that more effort knowledge on this field tends to complicate matters more (Swift, 2015). According to (Bangay, 2010), numerous education materials on climate change tend to focus on how the knowledge is transferred rather than the complexity of the issue and how it can be integrate