“Thank you so much for organising this opportunity, our boys absolutely loved the conference and were keen for it to continue all day.’
Teacher feedback, Merseyside Schools Climate Conference 2020
See this summary of students’ views both before and after the Climate Conference, which was organised jointly by Liverpool World Centre and InterClimate Network.
Councillor Barbara Murray (Cabinet Member – Environment, Employment & Skills, Liverpool City Council) gave a thoughtful opening address. She talked about how many Local Authorities are responding to the Climate Emergency and pointed to Liverpool City’s Council’s own concern to deliver on priorities such as recycling waste, the Mersey Forest and giving safer routes as part of the ‘Walk to School’ programme with Living Streets. She asked students to look out for their essay writing competition on Climate Change in 2021.
Modelled on the UN Conference of the Parties (COP26), students then represented 15 countries in their global negotiations and gave opening statements about each of their countries’ progress on carbon reduction and their greater ambitions to help the world halt global temperature rise.
Many countries asked for recognition of the huge damage already done by Climate Change to their agriculture, coasts and economies. There was excellent debate (even on zoom) and some tough questioning particularly around funding in support of developing countries’ massive adaptation needs. St Bede’s team representing the Marshall Islands said afterwards,
We learnt even though our country [UK] is not suffering as much now, there are countries like the Marshall Islands that are in danger of disappearing due to global warming.
Students from all participating schools showed that they had really got to grips with their briefings, through their understanding of the climate science and international politics and their willingness to step up global collaboration in response to this Climate Crisis. Joint projects were put forward in support of the most vulnerable countries and Least Developed Countries such as Bhutan. There was commitment to share sustainable energy technology and knowledge about the oceans as carbon sinks. Policy frameworks were put forward to tackle illegal forestry along with a tremendous proposal in support of action led by cities. None of these would go amiss in the actual COP26 push for greater climate ambition!
Attention in the second part of the conference turned to local action, focusing on key areas where we can all make a difference especially in school: Energy; Food; Transport; What we buy and use. Students made full use of chat to put their questions to and gain inspiration from a great panel: Laura Robertson-Collins, Cabinet Member for Environment & Sustainability, Liverpool City Council; Ann Nicols, Edmund Rice Schools Network; Liz Atherton, 10-Tonne Challenge; Clare Owens, Squash Nutrition.
The panels’ answers can be found here and below is just a selection of the students’ highly relevant questions:
Broughton Hall Catholic High School: How did you get people on board to get included?
Belvedere Academy: Should we be aiming towards using electric transport or public transport more?
St Julie’s Catholic High School: What can we use instead of plastic?
Liverpool College: Considering schools have the potential to contribute towards mitigating climate change; from renewable energy infrastructure to educating the youth. Do you think local authorities have provided enough support to schools in working towards this goal?
North Liverpool Academy: How do we prevent wrapping up vegetables in plastic? and: How can we address the link between poverty and a poor diet?
St Anselm’s College: How can you encourage residents to live more sustainably when convenience foods are so affordable and people would rather use transport than walk?
St Ambrose College: IS JOE BIDEN GOING TO SIGN USA BACK INTO PARIS AGREEMENT?
What came from the conference?
“Make clean transport widely available, especially for school” was top priority for young people from when asked after the conference ‘What can make the biggest difference in tackling climate change in our area?’
When asked what they will each do as a result of the conference,
- 88% said they will ‘Influence family and friends’
- 25% will ‘Join an Eco-group’
- 19% said they will ‘Write to my local councillor or MP’
And in support of students’ own action in schools,
- 67% said ‘Help us communicate our views including to politicians’
- 60% want advice and guidance on their Climate Action
- 60% want to link with local organisations that can help
Our huge thanks go to all the students and panel members for their great contributions, and to teachers in all of the participating schools for helping make the technology work so that their students could take part in this successful first Climate Conference for Merseyside schools.