Date: December 6, 2019 Location:Reading Venue:Reading Civic Offices

Reading Schools Debate Global Ambition on Climate Change and Pledge Local Action

Reading Borough’s Council Chamber hosted the final InterClimate Network schools’ climate conference of 2019 with 80 students from seven local schools attending on 6th December 2019.

The schools represented were:  Bulmershe; Highdown; Prospect; Reading Girls’ School; Kendrick;  Reading School and The Wren. The talks were intended to mirror the COP 25 International Climate Conference happening during the same week in Madrid, with students working in country teams to represent 16 very different countries, from China to Indonesia and from the UK to Chile.

Councillor Tony Page (Deputy Leader of Reading Borough Council and Lead for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport) formally welcomed students to the Council Chamber. He set the scene and presented the vision for climate action in Reading against the backdrop of the Council’s Climate Emergency declaration earlier this year which followed our 2018 schools’ conference: “This is always a truly inspiring event where young people from across Reading show their passion for the environment and tackling climate change. This is the first conference since the Council declared a climate emergency in Reading and I look forward to hearing more ideas on how we can all work toward a zero-carbon town by 2030.”

 

Teams then presented their country’s climate change targets, explained their progress and issues, and challenged others on their performance.  Poorer countries – where impact of climate change is already hitting hard – stressed the importance of funding from richer countries to help adapt.  Others drew attention to the need for education and the importance of communities taking a lead:

  • Indonesia’s delegation highlighted its vulnerability to sea level rises while acknowledging that deforestation – which supports the livelihoods of millions of its citizens – makes it the world’s fourth largest carbon emitter.
  • Nigeria cited climate related migration due to both drought inland and floods on the coast, despite being one of the world’s lowest emitter.
  • Voting on whether enough is currently being done to combat climate change only the USA delegation agreed!

Leadership was challenged and international collaboration pledged. Positives were highlighted, such as how businesses around the world are responding and how new jobs are being created in renewable energy and other green sectors.

The teams then put their differences aside and engaged with each other to find areas of common ground.  They developed bilateral deals on actions to make faster progress.  That’s exactly what the planet hopes will come out of COP 25 in Madrid.

Part two of the Conference switched to Local Action planning.  Our keynote speaker – Mike Barry, formerly Director of Sustainability at Marks and Spencer – challenged the young people present to consider becoming future business leaders in order to “take us somewhere better”. He concluded that businesses need to call for better legislation and to collaborate rather than compete in order to innovate and to make it easier to do the right thing.

Mike then joined with our local sustainability experts – the six theme leads from Reading Climate Change Partnership (RCCP) – to provide advice to the students on the school actions plans they had bought along.  The themes represented reflected those of the Reading Climate Change Strategy currently in development – Water, Energy, Transport, Nature, Resources and Health – and the theme leads valued the opportunity to hear directly from the local young people present. Students also considered what their key messages would be to the Council and how they could make a difference in school. Some excellent ideas emerged:

  • One or two days a week in school should be plastic free
  • Talking with headteachers about renewable energy sources in school
  • Make recycling easier and more accessible in school

and for the Council:

  • Promote youth or citizens’ meetings on the climate emergency
  • Listen to young people so they don’t feel ignored and helpless
  • Make cycle routes more accessible

Teams then agreed one new action for change that they would take back to their school and to make pledges.

Mike Barry said: “It’s great to join the Reading Schools’ Climate Conference. Young people are pressing for change to every aspect of our lives in response to the Climate Crisis. Today we are listening to them and helping them develop plans to make change happen.”

InterClimate Network will now work with schools to move action forward.  We have also encouraged schools to input to the RCCP Strategy development by keeping in touch with the theme leads and sharing details of their climate action in school.

The Conference and follow-up activities are part of ICN’s Climate Voices Programme supported by Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Garfield Weston Foundation.  Additional funding specifically to enable our activities in Reading has been provided by Reading Climate Change Partnership.