Interview by Roberta Capozucca
The challenge of sustainable development and the need for the right competences
The Joint Research Centre published a new European competence framework on sustainability for lifelong learning. Linked to the proposal for a Council Recommendation on learning for environmental sustainability, the GreenComp framework provides a common ground to learners and educators on what sustainability as a competence entails.
The GreenComp responds to the growing need for people to improve and develop knowledge, skills and attitudes to live, work and act in a sustainable manner. It is designed to support education and training programmes for enabling learners to become systemic and critical thinkers, as well as develop agency, and form a knowledge basis for everyone who cares about our planet’s present and future state.
GreenComp addresses the policy objectives as set out in the:
- European Green Deal;
- European Skills Agenda (2020);
- European Education Area (2020).
Additionally, the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 called ‘Bringing Nature Back into our Lives’ (2020) highlights the important role education and training have for Europe to become a climate-neutral continent by 2050.
To better understand the perimeter of actions and the aims for a Competence Framework on sustainability, Materahub interviewed Guia Bianchi, Researcher at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and author of the GreenComp.
First, where does the need for a competence framework for sustainability come from?
Today, the green transition is at the heart of almost all European policies. As never before, it became crucial to abandon unsustainable practices to preserve the environment on which our future as a species depends on. At the core of this necessary shift lies an equally urgent transition of our learning models towards environmental, social and economic sustainability, which thus becomes essential for the present and future of our planet. Indeed, the European Green Deal recognises the importance of lifelong learning in the green transition.
Competence-based education, which helps to develop knowledge and attitude-based sustainability skills, can help to promote responsible action and stimulate the will to take or demand action at local, national and global level. Becoming competent in sustainability will help to overcome the cognitive dissonance that results from knowing about a problem but being unable or empowered to act on it.
How does the GreenComp define sustainability?
The GreenComp framework defines sustainability as a way to prioritise the needs of all life forms, ensuring that human activities do not exceed the limits of the planet’s resources. This implies a transformation of our production and consumption systems, from energy, to mobility, food and so on, yet also a cultural shift for the people that can learn to act sustainable in their daily life as a consumer, as a citizen, neighbour, employee, employer, member of a community, organisation etc. Nonetheless, both for the core and soft actions we need new competences able to empower actions.
Who was involved in the development of GreenComp?
Tha GreenComp is the result of a participatory method that involved experts and stakeholders at an international level. It started in 2020 with a literature review in order to gather what has been done in this field so far.
The study, entitled “Sustainability Competences”, also makes a distinction on what are called ‘green skills’. Later, with my colleagues from the Joint Research Centre in Seville and the Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission, we formulated a proposal for a new Green Competencies Framework.
This proposal was discussed with experts in the field of formal, informal and non-formal education, trainers, scientists and stakeholders from European associations. When consensus was reached, the GreenComp was published and is now part of the Council Recommendation on Learning for a Green Transition and Sustainable Development.
What does GreenComp do concretely?
The GreenComp was published in January 2022 as a conceptual model and since then it opened the phase for implementation. At the moment it provides guidelines for thinking, planning and acting responsibly towards people, animals and thus the planet we live on.
There are already examples, in Europe, of professors and educators who have adopted the framework, adapting it to their own needs with respect to the specific national and educational path. For this reason, I invite readers to register on the Education for Climate Coalition platform, where students, teachers and those interested can sign up and tackle the transition to educate to sustainability collectively and learn from and with their peers on a European level.
How is the cultural and creative sector involved in disseminating specific sustainability skills?
In the scenario we have been talking about so far, the cultural and creative sector plays a dualistic role. On the one hand, this sector can benefit from the GreenComp and make the 12 sustainability skills its own in order to develop actions in line with our mandate, as human beings, to live in respect of the planet and in a fair way, not only for future generations but also for current ones.
On the other hand, the cultural and creative sector is a crucial vehicle for promoting these skills and disseminating them within society. In this regard, I want to remark on the great work done by my colleagues at the Joint Research Centre in Ispra with the JRC SciArt project, which organised transdisciplinary exchanges and meetings, bringing together scientists, artists and policymakers around current issues.