Iraq: Climate change, a top priority for educators

published 22 November 2021 updated 25 March 2022

Acknowledging that climate change is one of the most important global issues, the Kurdistan Teachers’ Union (KTU) has reaffirmed its commitment to push the regional government to insert climate change education into the curriculum and to take other necessary measures on climate change.

“Climate change and its effects are clearly visible through annual droughts, heavy rainfall, floods, forest fires, and rapid snow melting in the North and South Poles,” said KTU President Abdalwahed M. Haje. “All these changes prompted many countries, the United Nations, and many organisations concerned about it [climate change] to start conducting research and studies and to follow up on climate developments.”

KTU President Abdalwahed M. Haje

A global concern for the future

He warned that “the risks are increasing day by day, especially to the environment, human beings, livestock and wildlife, and to the entire globe. While the effects will not be felt very quickly, without a doubt, climate changes, no matter how small, will see their effects grow exponentially and lead to deepening problems.”

Haje also welcomed the interest shown by many countries in the issue of climate change and that they have begun to take measures to reduce the impact of these changes.

These measures, Haje said, are implemented through several key steps, including:

  • Controlling and reducing gases emitted by giant factories.
  • Farming of the plains to restore balance in the environment.
  • Dealing with and using urban waste in a scientific manner to reduce damage to the environment, i.e., air and water.

Local steps to be taken

Haje also deeply regretted that, while many countries are trying to reduce the effects of climate change, neither the Iraqi nor the Kurdistan government is taking this issue seriously. For instance, in Kurdistan, the government continues to seize agricultural lands and turn them into housing projects and urban expansion.

In the absence of continuous electric power nationally, hundreds of electricity generators are used to feed Erbil’s city centre with electric energy, Haje added. These generators, running on fuel oil, in addition to the noise, emit thousands of tonnes of gas into the city sky. And the government has not taken any concrete measures to reduce the dangerous effects of these generators.

The KTU leader also highlighted practical steps which should be taken by public authorities to solve environmental issues, such as:

  • Preventing the destruction of forests. According to the latest statistics, there are only 20 million palm trees in Iraq, down from 32 million in the past. That number is constantly decreasing, as people are burning palm groves to convert their lands into residential lands.
  • Setting an upper limit for the import of cars. Haje said estimates point to over two million cars in the Kurdistan region, and that number is increasing.
  • Factories and refineries must respect adequate sustainability standards or environment preservation standards. According to Haje, these factories emit thousands of tonnes of toxic gases daily into Erbil’s sky. He said the smell of gas is a nightly occurrence in the centre of Erbil, presenting a danger to human lives.

Absence of climate change on curriculum

Haje condemned the fact that neither the government nor other concerned and relevant parties have included the topic of environmental pollution and its causes, environmental protection, or climate change on the curriculum. “This prevents students from gaining the necessary knowledge to stop climate change and acquiring a scientific basis for a better life,” he said.