Apple supports Malala Fund look at link between girls' education, climate change

At Web Summit, Nobel winner Malala Yousafzai and Apple exec Lisa Jackson discuss how educating girls can lead to a healthier planet. They also urge businesses to prioritize climate goals.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read

At Web Summit, Apple's Lisa Jackson (left) spoke with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

Screenshot by Katie Collins/CNET

Since 2018, tech giant Apple has been working with the Malala Fund to support the fund's efforts to provide education for girls around the world.

At Web Summit on Friday, Apple's vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson, met with activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai to announce a new area of research the Malala Fund is conducting with the help of Apple: the intersection of girls' education and climate change .

The research, set to be published in March, will look at sustainability and environmental protection within the curriculum for the education of girls, and contain recommendations for government-level policies and global-level commitments, said Yousafzai.

Yousafzai painted a vivid picture of how climate change and girls' education are interrelated. For instance, using the example of her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley, she described how the flooding there destroys homes and schools, and how long droughts mean girls must walk miles to fetch water for their families when they should be at school or doing homework. She also said smarter girls mean a healthier planet.

"When we educate girls and when we empower them and when we give them the quality education that they need, it actually helps us to tackle climate change because when girls are educated, they have fewer children," she said. "They're more economically independent. They can fight against these difficulties that climate change brings. They're more resilient."

Jackson, who grew up in New Orleans, spoke about how her early experiences of living close to the Mississippi River, and later the impact of Hurricane Katrina, shaped her own passion for environmental issues. She headed the US Environmental Protection Agency from 2009-2013 under President Barack Obama. At Apple, Jackson has helped spearhead some of the company's major environmental initiatives, including its push toward recycling and refurbishing electronics and their components.

Jackson urged world leaders and businesses to "bring our clock forward" and state clearly what they plan to do within the next 10 years to fight the climate crisis. "Now I think it's time for a call to real action," she said. "For me, that means calling on all businesses, including those in our supply chain, to set aggressive targets by 2030. Maybe you can't get to carbon-neutral by 2030, but you can do more. And we need for businesses to step up and say what they can do by 2030. Let's do that."

Not only does Apple have its own target to be carbon-neutral by 2030, but it also wants all its customers to be able to charge their devices via renewable energy by its 2030 deadline, said Jackson. 

"Obviously that's not something we can do all alone," Jackson said. "It's something that we can help with -- we've sponsored clean-energy projects around the world. But we also want to work with governments to make sure that there's more and more access to clean energy on grids all around the world, especially in areas that, right now, have been under-invested in, in terms of clean energy."

Jackson called for government to adopt strong policies, rules and laws that support real action on climate change. She added that she looks forward to a reengagement of the work done in this area under the Obama administration as President-elect Joe Biden enters office.

Yousafzai echoed Jackson's sentiments, adding that she hopes the Malala Fund's new research will bring the voices of girls to the table at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), set for November 2021. "We hope that our leaders show full responsibility and make good decisions about protecting our future," Yousafzai said.