Our UN-style model climate conferences inspire and enable students to ‘think globally, act locally’. Teams of students represent various countries, researching, presenting, and passionately debating their challenges and achievements. Then they move on to learn what actions they can take themselves and in their schools.

Background

At the United Nations 2015 climate talks, world leaders from 196 countries agreed a landmark international treaty – the Paris Agreement – to keep the global rise in temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius. Countries signed up to national targets to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions which cause global temperature rises, and the resulting negative impacts on human society and the natural world which are happening already, and will worsen in the decades to come.

In Glasgow in November 2021, countries of the world met again at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Although the outcomes of COP26 made some progress towards delivering on the Paris commitments, many around the world – especially young people – saw them as disappointing and insufficient. The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) to the UNFCCC will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in November / December 2023 as the world seeks to step up its commitments once again.

ICN led conferences

We know that all high-level decisions right now – from leadership of a school, to choice of Prime Minister, to UN country pledges – have an impact on the urgency of our response to the climate crisis, and profoundly affect how we will live in the future.

ICN has run climate conferences with secondary school students for over a decade to bring them closer to critical global negotiations at the UN, and to inspire their own advocacy and action. Our conferences are typically held with the support of local councils in impressive council chambers and provide a multi-dimensional learning opportunity for students to:

  • Engage in UN-style negotiations on global progress since the Paris Agreement
  • Experience decision-making and question local decision-makers
  • Investigate a range of local organisations’ ideas to inspire their own climate action

Read student and teacher feedback from Reading 2022 here and see the gallery of previous conferences below.

Skills and benefits for students

  • Greater comprehension of global climate issues, new knowledge, awareness of COP & other countries
  • Research, analysis and interpretation and debating skills, conflict resolution skills and teamwork
  • Public speaking, articulacy and oracy, justification and critical thinking skills
  • Understanding alternative viewpoints in a complex environment
  • Confidence, real world and ‘cultural capital’
  • Awareness of the bigger picture and need to involve more students in school.

Run your own COP

ICN has adapted our tried and tested UN-style climate conference format so that it sits within school priorities and time-constraints and can be used in a range of settings (see box). Guided by the resource activities and briefings (below) student teams research and represent a range of countries, presenting their country pledges and climate challenges. Role-play methodologies bring to life critical UN-style climate negotiations and collaborations to raise global ambition for action during the conference.

ICN provides free on-line training on how to run a climate conference aimed at teachers, older student leads and other facilitators. We also have a network of experienced facilitators who can support your conference (charged). Contact schools@interclimate.org for more details.

Please include us in any social media posts from your conference @InterClimate.

Examples of COP conferences using our resource

  • Sequences of Environmental Science lessons for years 7 and 8 culminating in a classroom conference.
  • Off-curriculum conferences across year groups, whole schools and across academy chains.
  • Virtual and live conferences with eco-school networks.
  • Conferences led by linked and partner organisations with other councils’ support.

Resources & briefings

For COP28 we have updated our award-winning COP26 in the Classroom resource and continued its objective to sharply focus on lived experience of climate change around the world, particularly for young people and the most vulnerable.

Click here to access the full set of activities and country briefings: ICN COP28 Conference Resource.

A) Three activities culminating in a climate conference

I-CAN Toolkit: Theme 3

Use these three activities to suit your own programmes. They may be run compactly over 3 lessons or spread over 6 lessons, with an eco-group or in a sequence of off-curriculum days. Notes and links accompany each of three session powerpoints:

  1. The road to Dubai outlines vital stages of UN decision making and poses questions for students to critically discuss global responses to the climate crisis.
  2. Get ready for your conference sets out the countries and has an optional planner for students’ opening speeches.
  3. COP28 comes to school guides you and your students through your own UN-style climate conference and includes specific notes for the conference chair.

B) COP28 Briefings

COP28 Overview aids students’ preparations and can be used during their conference for background information and statistics, as well as a summary of all country positions. Potential collaborations are offered on the final page. Download here.

16 Country Briefings provide detailed notes and research links for your conference preparations, including an opening speech (ideally of 1 minute). 12 to 14 countries may be the ideal number for your conference as all countries will undoubtedly want to contribute fully to the debate. Select from across the four headers in the table below so that a range of perspectives is represented.

Click here to access the full set of activities and country briefings: ICN COP28 Conference Resource.

LDCs/SIDS/Vulnerable (V20)BRICS* _________ Other Emerging EconomiesIndustrialised (HICs)
BangladeshBrazilChileAustralia
BarbadosChinaEgyptEuropean Union
Marshall IslandsIndiaIndonesiaUnited Kingdom
UgandaSouth AfricaUnited Arab Emirates **USA

* Alliance between Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa. United Arab Emirates and Egypt are among six nations that will join this alliance from 2024.

**The United Arab Emirates has the Presidency of COP28.

Endorsements

Reboot the Future:

“The Top Resource Award goes to the five individual resources we’ve found to be the most helpful, inspiring and effectively designed. Your resource was selected because with students studying the key aspects of the climate crisis, the functions of the UN and learning to empathise with different countries’ situations, this offers a fantastic, multi-layered learning experience.”

Thanks for all of your time and effort in organising and hosting this event, it is one of the best activities I have taken part in with my eco group over the years. I like the fact that it is specific, focused, with an overall outcome at the end.”

Teacher, 2021 Conference

Reflection on using the resource in the classroom:

“Students were really engaged with the fact that the UK was hosting COP26 and were really interested in the causes and impacts of climate change, they had a lot of prior knowledge here. Students who had a connection to their country were far more likely to get passionate about their research, e.g. a boy with Indian family did amazing research into India’s position. There was a lot of excitement around familiar countries. Students definitely valued the opportunity to learn more about the issue of the day.”

Teacher, Devon

“It went very well, way beyond my expectations. The kids spoke a very good level of English, and were focused throughout the whole morning. I had an impression, that this generation is much more concerned about the issue.”

Balazs Nagy, Anthropolis, Hungary (I-CAN partner)

Feedback from students:

“It was a very fun and educational event and I would love to see more events like this.” 

“Thank you so much for this opportunity! I’ll never forget it!” 

“This was a great opportunity for me, I had lots of fun and I hope it is offered to other people in the future.”