K12 Climate Action Examines Climate Change Mitigation in Schools

December 11, 2020

School leaders from Philadelphia, Stockton join student activists in sharing innovative solutions

Nell Callahan

Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, December 10,  2020 – Today, K12 Climate Action, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, examines how schools can mitigate their environmental impact during its second listening session, which features Dr. William Hite Jr., the Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia; Otis Hackney, the Chief Education Officer for the City of Philadelphia; Gilbert Rosas, the Energy Education Specialist at Stockton Unified School District; and Mahider Tadesse and Andie Madsen, student activists from Salt Lake City School District.

“Climate change is a major crisis that we all, as well as schools, will face, and school leaders and policymakers must prepare for those unique challenges and take action,” said former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman. “Today, we’ve heard tangible steps schools in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Stockton have taken to reduce their environmental impact, move toward sustainable solutions, and provide healthier learning environments for children and youth.”

“With green matters playing such a crucial role in our economy,” said Hite. “We know that today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. We need to prepare them for jobs but also to live healthy lifestyles.”

“This pandemic should teach us that we need to be prepared for change and invest in the future,” said Rosas.

“I hope this moment is the beginning of moving in the right direction for where schools and school districts need to be in the future,” says Madsen. “I am hoping that more young people are getting involved in this conversation because it is so necessary, and truly we have a personal stake in this fight.”

Co-chaired by John B. King Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust and 10th U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama, and Christine Todd Whitman, president of the Whitman Strategy Group and former Governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, K12 Climate Action consists of 23 commissioners and over 35 coalition partners. It will release an action plan in 2021 that will harness schools’ unique position to educate and prepare a new generation of students to advance a more sustainable world.

K12 Climate Action has four key areas of focus:

  • Mitigate: transitioning to more sustainable operations including energy, transportation, and food use;
  • Adapt: building resilience in preparation for disruptions and negative impacts related to climate change;
  • Educate: supporting teaching and learning to equip children and youth with the knowledge and skills to build a more sustainable world; and
  • Advance Equity: centering the voices and needs of Black, Latinx, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Indigenous and other communities of color as well as low-income students and families.

In the United States, 50 million children and young people attend public schools. With 98,000 schools, 480,000 diesel school buses, and 7 billion meals served annually, the education sector has a considerable environmental impact and offers one of the greatest opportunities to build long-lasting change to advance sustainability.

For more information, visit k12climateaction.org and join the conversation by following K12 Climate Action on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

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