Teams of students from secondary schools in four areas met to carry out their own COP24 debate on progress towards the Paris Agreement and try to negotiate raising ambition for more action.
As 190 countries meeting in Katowice, Poland for the annual UN Climate Conference, COP24, teams of students from secondary schools in four areas also met to carry out their own debate on progress towards the Paris Agreement. They negotiated raising ambition for more action.
The events each started with intense debate on global climate change in UN styled Climate Conferences with school teams representing 15 countries from Fiji to USA. They moved on in the second part to a vital ‘Local Action’ summit with many local experts on hand to inspire students’ ideas for school.
What is happening on Climate Change around the world?
As in the real COP24, the country teams had a significant challenge; the move towards the Paris 2015 targets has been slower than the world needs. The students gave detailed opening statements about their country’s progress and also made skilful use of their research in critical questioning of other countries. Every country team contributed valuable points, with some showing realistic frustrations when major emitters of the world appeared too slow in taking up the global commitment to reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
The clear messages the students gave for everyone in the Council Chambers were:
- the immediacy of the effects of climate change for every country in the world, the effects being especially hard-hitting for vulnerable countries
- the complexity of decision-making and contradictions of policy-making, particularly where economic interests based on fossil fuels, and political reticence are taking precedence
- the vital part that cooperation between countries can play in increasing momentum by helping to distribute finance, and to learn from great ideas that are already working elsewhere in the world.
When faced with the scale of change that’s needed it can seem to be an overwhelming task. Keynote speakers Danny Bonnett and Richard Usher both pointed to the shift in technologies that means we already have solutions to hand. Professor Paul D Williams, University of Reading also gave a powerful message of hope to end his keynote speech: countries such as Sweden are showing that it is perfectly possible to live long and full lives in economies where development has been ‘decoupled’ from carbon emissions.
Our conferences showed the power of local action, especially when led by young people, to put pressure on governments around the world. A last word by a student in Solihull summed this up brilliantly saying, ‘We need to ACT FAST’.
One thing I have learned about Climate Change through this conference …
‘It affects everywhere in the world.’
‘Some countries really aren’t pulling their weight.’
‘It’s impacting us on a global scale and we must act upon it before it’s too late.’
What can we do locally about Climate Change?
The second part of the conference brought Local Action into sharp focus in each of the four areas. The extent of the commitment to climate action by Local Government was strongly conveyed in Cheltenham by Cllr Steve Jordan and Cllr Max Wilkinson, in Solihull by Cllr Ian Courts and the Council’s Sustainability Team, in Bristol by Cllr Kye Dudd and James Sterling of the Bristol Energy Service and in Reading by Cllr Tony Page and Chris Beales, Chair of the Reading Climate Change Partnership.
Sustainability experts from local organisations and Council teams’ initiatives provided details of great local work and ways for students to make a difference, from growing food, monitoring wildlife and using green space differently in school, signing up to a transport or oceans campaign, to influencing recycling in the classroom. Each school went away with at least one idea or ‘pledge’ for what they can do.
One thing I want to take action on as a result of this conference …
‘I as an individual can contribute a lot to a much wider global issue.’
‘I would like to help do assemblies in school and create posters to encourage others to join.’
‘It has fuelled me to follow through with my issues surrounding waste in college. I am going to talk with my headmaster when I get back tomorrow.’
Our huge thanks go to Bristol City Council, Cheltenham Borough Council, Reading Borough Council and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council for hosting and supporting these events:
- 27 November – Cheltenham Council Chambers
- 28 November – Civic Suite, Solihull
- 4 December – Bristol City Hall
- 5 December – Reading Civic Offices