Date: November / December 2017 Location:Bristol, Cheltenham, Solihull, Reading

Echoing the November COP23 climate talks in Bonn, young people from secondary schools showed the world how to raise global ambition at four dynamic meetings in their local Council Chambers.

Global perspective leads to local action

The conferences, each hosted by councils in Bristol, Cheltenham, Solihull and Reading were formally opened by the Mayor and Cabinet Members and exposed students to an afternoon of tough questions and insightful discussions.  Without exception the young people stepped up and grasped challenging concepts about climate change in the global context and even beyond this, worked hard to agree effective local action they can take to make a difference.

The format of the meeting involved the students representing up to 15 countries and making a high-level statement of their country’s progress since the Paris Climate Agreement.  Nearly all agreed that more needs to be done to tackle emission growth and keep global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius.  The climate vulnerable countries of Bangladesh, Nigeria and Zambia and particularly ‘host’ country Fiji made sure other nations realised that decisions being taken now are having an immediate effect on their people and their very existence.

Although the debate began with some direct requests to other countries, including calls on rich industrial nations to contribute more funds and asking that emerging economies balance growth with reductions of emissions, the mood of the conferences moved away from finger-pointing. Several delegates made impassioned interventions calling for commitment to work together and to tackle this greatest of challenges by being part of the solutions. Significant negotiating skills then came into play as a series of great collaborations were forged around the key themes of Cities, Forests and Oceans.

In the second part of the afternoon, local sustainability leaders and active organisations shared their expertise in an ‘Ideas Zone’. Students took part in mini-workshops on everything from air quality, biodiversity, energy, fairtrade, food and food waste, sustainable resource-use through to travel and transport, waste and recycling.  Young people came away with pledges for action back in school so that they can play an even greater role in a low carbon, environmentally sustainable future.

The launch of ICN’s Sustainability Challenge – with an opportunity for schools to showcase their environmental action in the House of Lords in June 2018 – was an added stimulus for action.  Particular to the Reading conference, there was also an offer of funding from Reading’s Climate Action Fund to take forward ideas for action in school.

Quotes:  The programme’s coordinator, Michila Critchley said, “The young people rose to the challenge, and not only made their teachers proud but also impressed the attending politicians and other experienced guests greatly with the strength of their arguments. Frankly, I think they sent out a pretty powerful message that this generation is passionate about finding ways to set us on a better track.”

‘Feel very lucky for our students to have had this opportunity – so important and meaningful.’
– Bristol Teacher

‘An incredible experience for all the young people involved.’
– Solihull Teacher

Huge thanks go to all the Council teams, guests, and contributors who provided financial and organisational support and valuable expertise at each event.  Thanks goes especially to the schools who took part, their young people and teachers for their preparation, and for the teams’ total involvement at each event.

Bristol City Hall, 22 November

Schools: Badminton School; Redland Green School; The Ridings Federation Winterbourne International Academy; The Castle School.

Dignitaries, other speakers and Council team:

Cllr Fi Hance, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste and Regulatory Services
Cllr Eleanor Combley, Leader, Green Group, Bristol City Council
Cllr Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People
Danny Bonnett, MD LICenergy
Martin James , Bristol Participation Youth Work team


Air Quality – Dr Chris Adams, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol
Energy – Danny Bonnett, MD LICenergy
Food and Food Waste –  Lydia Francisty & Jennifer Fawcett-Thorne, Waste Bristol Waste Company
Travel and Transport –  Laura Service & Catherine McCoy, Living Streets
Travel and Transport – Jennifer Counsell for Modeshift STARS
Waste & Recycling – Bristol Youth Council
Participation – Traci Lewis, Catalyse Change

Cheltenham Council Chambers, 23 December

Schools: Balcarras School; Cheltenham Ladies College; Hartpury College; Pate’s Grammar School; Pittville School; The Cotswold School

Dignitaries, other speakers and Council team:

Cllr Bernard Fisher, Deputy Mayor
Cllr Steve Jordan,  Leader of the Council


Energy – Dr Eamonn Barrett for Severn Wye Energy Agency
Food and Food Waste – Robert Bell, ICN
Sustainable Procurement – Helen Dewhurst, Accenture
Travel and Transport – Jennifer Counsell for Modeshift STARS
Waste & Recycling – Peter Clegg, Vision 21
Waste & Recycling – Jenny Evans, IT Schools for Africa

Solihull Council Chambers, 30 November

Schools: CTC Kinghurst Academy, Grace Academy, John Henry Newman Catholic College, Lode Heath School, Park Hall Academy and St Peter’s Catholic School

Dignitaries, other speakers and Council team:

Cllr Stuart Davis, Mayor of Solihull
Cllr Ian Courts, Solihull Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Managed Growth
Dave Biss, Sustainable Development Team, Solihull Council
Sarah Lardner, Sustainable Development Team, Solihull Council


Biodiversity – Landscape (CLAUDE) Team, Solihull Council
Energy – Sustainable Development Team, Solihull Council
Fairtrade  – Sustainable Development Team, Solihull Council
Travel and Transport – SWITCH Team, Solihull Council
Waste & Recycling – Love Solihull team, Solihull Council

Reading Council Chambers, 1 December

Schools: Highdown School, Maiden Erlegh School Reading, Reading School

Dignitaries, other speakers and Council team:

Cllr Rose Williams, Mayor of Reading
Ben Burfoot, Sustainability Manager, Reading Borough Council
Danny Bonnett, MD LICenergy


Biodiversity – Natalie Ganpatsingh, Nature Nurture
Energy – Ben Burfoot, Zero Carbon Reading RBC with Danny Bonnnett, LICenergy
Food & Food Waste – Dave Richards, Reading International Solidarity Campaign (RISC)
Sustainable Procurement – Helen Dewhurst, Accenture
Travel and Transport – Jennifer Counsell for Modeshift STARS
Travel and Transport – John Bickerton, Reading Buses

Point of contact: Michila Critchley