Sustainable Development key at APEC Symposium on Human Capital Policies for Green Growth & Employment

The U.S. Department of Education this week hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Human Capital Policies for Green Growth and Employment Project Symposium. I had the pleasure to participate as an observer on Tuesday.

What happens in the classrooms across the world will change the world ~ Martha Kanter, Under Secretary, U.S. Dept of Education
APEC is the premier Asia-Pacific economic forum; their primary goal is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. APEC strives to build a dynamic and harmonious Asia-Pacific community by championing free and open trade and investment, promoting and accelerating regional economic integration, encouraging economic and technical cooperation, enhancing human security, and facilitating a favorable and sustainable business environment.
Yesterday’s agenda included opening remarks from Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, who commented that “what happens in the classrooms across the world will change the world.”

The day included presentations by education leaders from Chinese Taipei, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Mexico, Chile, Canada, and the U.S. Spotlights included:

San Gee from Chinese Taipei, who hosted a presentation on environmental education in primary and secondary schools, with commentary that destruction during a 1999 earthquake presented an opportunity to rebuild with the goal of safe and sustainable development. Gee noted that one step taken to ensure a sustainable future was an environmental education act passed in 2010 requiring all faculty, staff and students in primary and secondary schools to participate in at least four hours of environmental education each year.

Sarah White, from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, led a panel on the vocational education and training system’s role in green growth and employment. White stressed the need for skills to be “portable,” meaning people need to learn skills that are useful across industries, are flexible and stay relevant. Panelist Wang Wenjin, from the People’s Republic of China, highlighted several goals toward sustainability for his community including the desire to establish more parks and green space that result not only in conservation of natural resources, but also in job creation. Wenjin also highlighted China’s establishment of a green building evaluation standard in 2006, and their goal to reduce reliance on coal from 74% to 54% by 2020.

A second panelist, Young Saing Kim from Korea, highlights Korea’s green growth strategies including the President’s proclamation of “Low Carbon Green Growth” as the national strategy for the next 60 years. Korea also set a goal to invest $38.5 billion from 2009-2012 in nine key green projects to boost economy and create 1 million jobs in the green sector; and be the world’s 7th green power until 2020 and the 5th green power by 2050.

The clear themes of the day were twofold:

  1. Greening industries and greening jobs are essential to protecting the planet and its natural resources.
  2. Sustainability education needs to be front and center from the beginning; ensure students are involved in primary school and engage them through higher education, whether that is career or technical training or a four year degree program.

Learn what National Wildlife Federaton’s Campus Ecology program is doing to support college and university efforts to infuse sustainability into the curriculum (search our case study database) and advance greener workforce development (through our Greenforce Initiative).