Team Bangladesh.
A showcase of climate action at Solihull Sixth Form College.

Solihull Council Chambers was the inspiring venue for this climate conference for local secondary schools and sixth form college which saw some tough negotiations. Solihull MBC Council Leader and cabinet member for climate change fielded top questions, and schools were commended for their own climate action.  

The conference saw a terrific debate at Solihull with new funds agreed. Country teams fully immersed themselves in the issues of COP28, with vulnerable countries in particular pushing for more ambition and reduction of emissions. There were some great ideas about how to finance their plans, including increasing taxes for the largest emitters including the wealthy and carbon-producing companies. There was an exchange between countries of technical know-how and recognition that many need support to make changes. Right at the wire, the conference agreed to phase out fossil fuel usage by 2025. 

Part two of the conference turned to local climate action: how we as individuals and part of our school and wider communities are stepping up. Arden School presented their terrific eco-club work and Solihull Sixth Form College showed the progress they have made in moving towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Alderbrook School received a greener schools award from their business sponsor, Prime Accounts. 

Thanks to Sarah Lardner and Solihull MBC for their support, and to all participating schools: Alderbrook School, Arden Academy, Lyndon School, Solihull Sixth Form College, Langley School, John Henry Newman Catholic College & St Peter’s Catholic School. 

Aideen Blackborough, Associate with Just Ideas was there to record what happened and her blog is reproduced here:

Solihull schools replicate COP Conference for second year running 

58 students from seven schools have gathered in the Solihull Civic Suite to replicate the COP28 Conference. With each school sending a team of four students to represent one of the participating countries, they all engaged in an interesting and lively debate about the impacts of the Climate Crisis. 

The conference was opened by the Mayor of Solihull, Mrs Diana Holl-Allen MBE, who told the students,

“I was born in the 1940’s and there were lots of things happening then. What has happened since the fifties has led us to where we are today. You need to keep telling us oldies what we should be doing!” 

Solihull’s cabinet member for Climate Change & Planning, Councillor Mackiewicz added to these comments and apologised to the students for his generation not acting early enough to tackle the Climate Crisis.

“Your questions are much more challenging than those I get from the opposition!”

He welcomed emails from students on ideas for tackling climate change. 

The students then voted on and unanimously agreed the agenda – a task which usually takes days for the real conference! Each country then put forward their opening statements, outlining how the Climate Crisis is impacting upon their country and outlining their climate change targets. Many of the countries stressed the urgency of addressing the problems, with several highlighting the impacts of severe weather upon their countries. 

The conference was then asked if sufficient progress is being made towards emissions targets. The majority voted “No”, leaving the European Union alone in thinking that progress to date was acceptable. Questions and Open Debate followed, with the countries challenging each other to push their targets even further and richer nations facing demands to provide further aid to smaller, developing countries. China were asked about how they plan to mitigate issues with their growing population and the UK were asked about how they were managing the costs of tackling the Climate Crisis against the ongoing Cost of Living crisis. There followed a thoughtful and passionate debate! 

Delegates were then asked whether or not their country was willing to do more, even beyond their current targets. There was a mixed response to this, with several richer nations indicating “Yes”. Uganda explained their vote for “No” because they are one of the countries most affected by Climate Change and already have a high usage of hydroelectric power. Bangladesh voted “No”, saying they couldn’t afford the further investment that increasing targets would require. 

The next part of the conference required the teams to collaborate with each other on solutions in four main areas: 

  • Cities 
  • Energy 
  • Forests and foods 
  • Oceans 

As a result of these negotiations, the conference passed a motion agreeing to phase out fossil fuel usage by 2025. A major achievement that the real conference hasn’t even come close to! The USA agreed more support to industrialised countries and many countries stressed the importance of education in tackling the Climate Crisis. 

Following the COP28 role-play, the conference was addressed by Sarah Lardner, The Sustainability Engagement Officer from Solihull Council, explained to the pupils about several local initiatives which are in progress to tackle climate change. Sarah presented Alderbrook School with an award on their efforts (sponsored by Prime Account Group), saying they are starting small to contribute to the bigger picture. 

The students were then given the opportunity to question Councillor Courts and he began by saying, “Very little has actually changed, the issues are the same and you’re part of the solution.” Many of the questions focused around litter picking in Solihull and as the students showed such concern about the issue, Councillor Courts, asked for a press release to be issued following the conference. Another brilliant achievement for the students! 

Councillor Courts ended by saying, “This is number one, the benefits of tackling climate change are enormous and you’re the great people setting the example.”