The 10th Reading schools’ climate conference was the ‘best yet’. Young people showed their concern about the environment and ‘actively engaged in critical thinking about the systemic issues contributing to climate change’ before putting their critical questions to a high-level panel. 

Held in December, organised and facilitated by the Just Ideas’ team on behalf of InterClimate Network, we were delighted that Councillor Tony Page, a long-standing contributor and supporter of these schools’ climate events, was there to open the conference serving as Mayor of Reading.  

“Last Friday, I had the honour of opening the 10th Reading Schools’ Model Climate Conference mirroring the discussions at COP28. It was inspiring to witness students from eight local secondary schools engaging in debates on crucial climate issues.” 

Councillor Tony Page, Mayor of Reading

The second part of the conference brought the issues close to home so that young people could have a say about climate action in Reading. In a ‘Climate Question Time’,  young people put forward their questions and contributions to a panel of local decision makers and active young people. 

As with COP28 itself, the session ending with great pledges to take back for more actions, from reducing food waste and improving recycling to raising awareness across school of the urgency of climate action. 

Thanks go to all the students and teachers of the participating schools, and the panel contributors:   

  • Bulmershe; Denefield; Highdown; Kendrick; Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge; Maiden Erlegh Reading; Prospect; Reading School.  
  • Councillor John Ennis, Reading Borough Council’s lead member for climate strategy and transport; Peter Moore, the head of climate strategy; Tracey Rawling-Church, co-chair of Reading Climate Change Partnership; Laura De Moxom, cultural manager at Jelly; members of Reading Youth Council. 

“The more young people who are engaged and passionate about the environment and global climate crisis, the more hope we all have for the future. We recently learned that Reading’s carbon emissions have fallen 51% since 2005 and the Council has cut its own carbon footprint by 74% in 14 years. But we still have a lot to do to achieve our target for Reading to be net zero by 2030 and having local young people on board is essential.”  

Councillor John Ennis, Lead member for climate strategy and transport, Reading Borough Council

Here Just Ideas’ associate and guest blogger Farid Abdurrahman shares his reflections on the day: 

On the 8th of December, the Reading Council Chamber became a hub of enthusiasm, ideas, and positive energy as schools gathered for the much-anticipated Reading Schools Climate Conference. Stepping into the council chambers, my initial impression was marked by a palpable sense of positive competition among students, a testament to their dedication and passion for addressing global climate challenges. 

The participating schools were divided into various countries, each representing a unique perspective on climate issues. From South Africa to the UK, USA, India, China, Marshall Islands, and Uganda, it was evident that extensive research had laid the foundation for their presentations. 

One striking aspect of the conference was the students’ keen awareness of global injustices in trade. As they delved into the complexities of international commerce, it became clear that the next generation is not only concerned about the environment but also actively engaged in critical thinking about the systemic issues contributing to climate change. 

During the discussions, a notable example arose when the UK representatives acknowledged their country’s excessive oil imports. What set this apart was their simultaneous recognition of the need for collaborative action. They emphasised that the USA, too, should scrutinise the impact of the oil they import. This level of critical thinking and nuanced understanding of the interconnectedness of global issues was truly heartening. 

Equally impressive were the concrete, credible, and collaborative solutions proposed by the students. Their commitment to addressing climate change went beyond rhetoric, as they presented actionable steps that reflected a deep understanding of the challenges at hand. This commitment was further underscored during collaborative sessions, where students from different countries were tasked with developing joint initiatives to tackle environmental issues in their respective communities. 

The collaborative element of the conference added a layer of richness to the discussions. Witnessing students break into groups and earnestly brainstorming ways to address environmental challenges in their communities was a testament to their sense of shared responsibility and a promising indicator of future collaboration on a global scale. 

In conclusion, the Reading Schools Climate Conference was more than just an event—it was a gathering of passionate minds determined to make a difference.  

The pleasant vibe in the chambers mirrored the positive energy and collaborative spirit that permeated the entire conference. As we reflect on the outcomes of this gathering, there is a sense of hope for the future, knowing that these young minds are not just aware of the challenges we face but are actively working towards creating a sustainable and harmonious world. 

Comprehensive Eco-Initiatives: Transformative Strategies Across Reading Schools 

The schools, in addition to their insightful presentations, also formulated impactful solutions aimed at making a positive difference to address environmental challenges within their respective communities.  Some of the initiatives that the students came up with were : 

  • Embrace composting of vegetable food waste for use in school gardens to reduce environmental impact. 
  • Enhance waste reduction efforts by strategically installing or repositioning recycling bins throughout school and incentivising increased participation. 
  • Amplify awareness of climate action urgency and opportunities through the Student Leadership Team while fostering increased environmental action within the school community. 
  • Revitalise an Eco Committee and a geography club with the support of the Student Leadership Team and teachers, focusing on enhancing green spaces and waste management. Plans include showcasing and disseminating successful ideas throughout the school’s Academy Trust. 

InterClimate Network contact: Michila Critchley, Programme Director