Cllr Majid Mahmood, Cabinet Member for Environment.
Image from Cllr Majid’s X profile.

The headline agreement by the young people at this conference, under the leadership of UAE was to phase out fossil fuels by 2070. Going a step further than the conclusions at COP28 itself, their agreement was to urge all nations to speed up the transition away from oil and gas even before then to keep the world within a 1.5C temperature rise (above pre-industrial levels). 

Thanks to all students and supporting teachers at: Bordesley Green Girls’ School & Sixth Form; Ellowes Hill Sports College; Heartlands Academy; Hodge Hill College; King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys; King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls; Sutton Coldfield Girls’ School & Sixth Form; Swanshurst School.  


Here are exciting impressions of the event recorded by Just Ideas Associate Aideen Blackborough: 

Birmingham school pupils replicate COP28, by Aideen Blackborough 

Eight Schools from across Birmingham comprising of 57 pupils* came together at the Council Chambers on 6th December to replicate COP28, each representing one of the participating countries and contributing to a well-researched and passionate debate about the impact of climate change. 

Councillor Majid Mahmood, Cabinet Member for Environment, welcomed the students to the Council Chambers, saying,

“Climate change is the biggest challenge of this century; today is about leadership and the power of your voice – we all have a responsibility to act.”

He also explained that after protests from young people, Birmingham City Council had declared a climate crisis in 2019 and had set a target of being net zero by 2030. 

Each school team were allocated a country in advance of the conference which ranged from the UK and USA, to much smaller, developing countries like the Marshall Islands and Uganda. Pupils took on the role of government negotiators and each team began with their opening statement, in which they highlighted the ways in which climate change is impacting their country. Many of the teams also reiterated their country’s net zero commitments. Following this, the delegates unanimously agreed that there is not enough progress being made on global emissions targets. 

In a further vote, delegates were asked if their country was willing to do even more beyond the targets that they had already outlined. Whilst several countries, including Brazil and Egypt, agreed that they could do more, several countries were reluctant to commit to increasing their efforts. Chile stated that with 80% solar power been achieved in 2022, it would be too challenging to up their targets. The UK were the only country who were unsure about this vote, although they did state that it was the richer countries who should try to push their ambitions. 

The teams were then asked to collaborate with other countries to come up with solutions for their collective goals. There were four main themes for consideration with finance underpinning them [with priorities for action agreed by the conference]: 

  • Cities – rolling out clean air zones and clean transport in the world’s cities 
  • Energy – sharing technology, research and support in the fair transition to renewable energy 

 Delegates were asked to consider the debate of phase out or phase down of fossil fuels 

  • Forests & Food – global commitment to phasing down then phasing out deforestation with funding in place including to support integration of agro-forestry, and towards food security. 
  • Oceans – financial aid to protect nations vulnerable to sea level rise, and $50 million fund to support Blue ‘Green’ initiatives. 

The teams agreed to several deals. Chile agreed to invest more in rising sea levels and cleaner transport, reducing reliance on petrol and diesel vehicles, as well as transfer of solar energy with Egypt. There were discussions between Australia and Indonesia around supporting each other with hydroelectric power and UAE stressed the importance of Coral Reef Preservation and sharing research and knowledge. 

There was significant discussion around phasing down or out of fossil fuels. UAE underlined that this would require significant financial commitments and the Marshall Islands explained that without the phasing out of Fossil Fuels, they would seize to exist. The conference than passed a majority vote to phase out the use of Fossil Fuels by 2070. A major achievement that the real delegates haven’t come close to! 

This concluded the COP28 replica and David Evans, from Birmingham City Council, then explained to the conference what is happening locally. Following the young people’s protest in 2019, a net zero target by 2030 was announced. David explained that the climate crisis is affecting the city in many ways, with a year-on-year uptick of extreme weather. 

After a short break for lunch, the students had the opportunity to question a panel* who are all working towards tackling the Climate Crisis in the city. There are many initiatives already underway including updating insulation in the city’s 60,000 council homes; improving public transport with the city’s new tram system and installing electric vehicle charging points. 

The students engaged brilliantly with the panel, asking thoughtful and challenging questions of them. They demonstrated an excellent understanding and passion for the issues of Climate Change and a real desire to play their part in helping to reduce carbon emissions. 

“I hope these amazing young people understand how powerful their voices can be. They will live through the effects of our actions today, we all have a responsibility to act – and they can make a real difference.” 

Councillor Majid Mahmood, Cabinet Member for Environment

Part Two Climate Question Time 

There was a great line-up of Birmingham decision-makers and relevant organisations and council teams in the ‘Climate Question Time’ panel. Students asked a raft of excellent questions, about increasing recycling, reducing food waste, planting more trees and what more schools can do.  

Ellie Horwitch-Smith, Assistant Director of Birmingham City Council’s Route to Net Zero team (above right) talked about Birmingham’s own commitments and how she is inspired by people’s enthusiasm and passion for change.  

“The City Council has huge influence as we own so much property in the city. We want to demonstrate leadership and facilitate collaboration with others. This is a great opportunity to engage with you and you’ll be where we are now. Use your voice to shift the pace.”

Assistant Director of Birmingham’s Route to Net Zero, Ellie Horwich-Smith

Robin from Birmingham’s Youth Strike for Climate (BYS4C) movement (above left) commented about the importance of empowerment to them. The great sense of agency generated at the conference included pledges for action to conclude the conference.  

Schools committed to their own priority action from recycling, waste and plastics through to greater energy efficiency and improved transport plans, to setting up an eco-committee. As with the actual COP, we hope that schools will come back to report back on what they’ve achieved during the year. 

Birmingham Schools Climate ConferencePledge at the conference 
King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys  Investment in skills 
Hodge Hill College  Eco-committee; reducing plastics; energy; healthy schools 
Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls Awareness raising 
Bordesley Green Girls’ School & Sixth Form Transport and travel 
Swanshurst School Recycling and waste; uniform recycling 
King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls Energy efficiency including solar panels; biodiversity and water 
Heartlands Academy Smaller carbon footprint / food waste / less plastic 

Panel 

Ellie Horwitch-Smith – Ellie is the Assistant Director of Birmingham City Council’s Route to Net Zero team. This team is responsible for leading and coordinating the council’s response to climate change and meeting its ambitions of becoming a net zero council & city by 2030. Ellie is particularly interested in how we can heat our buildings more sustainably and help those struggling with the costs of their energy bills.  

Sarah Pullen – Sarah leads the Food System Team at Birmingham City Council where they have been on a mission to unite the inspiring people behind the city’s many diverse food-related projects under the #BirminghamFoodRevolution movement. They lead a city-wide partnership and have co-produced the Birmingham Food System Strategy which aims to transform the city’s communities, environment, and economy in order to regenerate the food system.  

Simon Needle – Simon is the Urban Forestry and Nature Lead at Birmingham City Council and responsible for delivering the city’s ambitious Urban Forest Masterplan. This 30-year plan sets out our intentions for green space in the city, aiming to increase the number of trees, improve the biodiversity in Birmingham, and help protect people and wildlife from the increased risks of heatwaves and flooding  

Sophie Rafiq – Sophie works on the travel demand team at Birmingham City Council which delivers a number of projects and initiatives like ModeShift STARS, School Active Travel Ambassadors, and car-free school streets. These all work to support pupils, parents, and staff to travel more sustainably around our city to help reduce emissions, keep the air cleaner, and improve health outcomes.  

Rosie Pincott – Rosie is a Climate Action Advisor as part of the Midlands team in Let’s Go Zero which offers free advice and support schools to decarbonise and make our future more sustainable. Her background is in Science Teaching in secondary schools, and she is a passionate advocate for climate awareness. Find out more on their website and register your interest here.

Robin – Robin is an organiser for the Birmingham Youth Strike for Climate (BYS4C) movement which has campaigned for local climate action in Birmingham since 2019. Inspired by the global youth climate movement, BYS4C brought together 4000 young people to protest outside the Council House and were instrumental in getting the council to declare a Climate Emergency and set Net Zero targets in 2019. Their current campaign calls for the removal of the Tyseley Waste Incinerator and for the re-involvement of youth representatives in council meetings and decision making. 

InterClimate Network contact: Michila Critchley, Programme Director 

michila.critchley@interclimate.org