Education and Research

We must prioritise education and research if we are to realise the Sustainable Development Goals and the sustainable transition. It is education and research that are increasingly tasked with laying the groundwork for, and subsequently sharing, the knowledge and skills we will need, making them key factors in the transition.

Promoting education and research for sustainability

Education for all

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in 2015 call for inclusive, equal-opportunity, high-quality and lifelong education to be available to all. In addition, UNESCO has supported corresponding projects worldwide since 2015 through its Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): every human being should be able to gain the knowledge, skills, values and mindset needed to help make the world a fairer, more peaceful and more sustainable place. Education must also be bolstered in all programmes for sustainable development. With the follow-on programme for 2020 to 2030 – Education for Sustainable Development: Towards Achieving the SDGs – UNESCO aims to continue promoting implementation of ESD.

Strengthening education for sustainable development and promoting sustainable innovations

With the German Sustainable Development Strategy, the federal government intends to give all children and young people the opportunity to receive and participate in education and to invigorate further education programmes. In addition, education on sustainable development is to be embedded at a structural level across all areas of education, something the federal government has been working on for a number of years. In 2015, it formed the initiative Education for Sustainable Development in Germany, which subsequently adopted a National Plan for ESD in 2017. The government’s Coalition Agreement for the period 2021–2025 states this Action Plan should be both anchored and significantly bolstered nationwide across all stages and areas of education. The Action Plan sets out how ESD can be incorporated in a legally binding manner into teaching and education plans, study courses and learning environments. Local educational landscapes are named as on-the-ground hubs for networking and collaboration between different ESD stakeholders. The plan views the participation of children, young people and civil society as instrumental in implementing ESD. Furthermore, it advocates KPIs and quality criteria for ESD. Since 2019, four joint projects, all commissioned by the federal government, have been working on developing a framework for ESD indicators.

With regard to research, the federal government’s “Research for Sustainability” (FONA) funding programme has been in place for a number of years now, with funding measures contributing to three Initiatives for Sustainability: Green Economy, City of the Future and the Transformation of the Energy System. In 2020, FONA published its first strategy. The FONA Strategy is aligned with the UN’s 2030 Agenda and as such aims to support the implementation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy, the High-Tech Strategy and, moving forward, the federal government’s future strategy for research and innovation.

The role of the Council for Sustainable Development

The German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) supports scientific insight into sustainability in a number of ways. For one, the RNE holds membership in initiatives including the National ESD Platform and the Advisory Council Dialogue for the Science Platform Sustainability 2030 as well as past committee activities such as the High-Tech Forum. In addition, the Council for Sustainable Development in cooperation with higher education institutions from all over Germany developed the German Sustainability Code for Higher Education Institutions (HS-DNK) from 2015 to 2018.

In 2021, the RNE together with 15 prominent researchers from the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina developed a position paper setting out potential actions to achieve climate neutrality. Furthermore, in 2022 the Council for Sustainable Development published a statement on innovation policy for sustainable development (only in German).

Please see here for further RNE publications on the topics of education and research.