Ten Solihull Schools* comprising of 70 pupils came together at the Solihull Civic Suite on 17th November to replicate COP27, each representing one of the participating countries and contributing to an exciting and spirited debate about the impact of climate change. 

Grace Academy students representing the European Union at the Solihull Schools Climate Conference, in the Council Chamber. Solihull Council Twitter.

In his opening remarks, Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Ken Meeson said,

It’s great to see this hall so full as this is an extremely important conference about an extremely important issue. We are all concerned about what is happening to the world and it is about more than just clean air.” 

Each school team were allocated a country in advance of the conference which ranged from the UK and China, to much smaller, developing countries like the Marshall Islands and Senegal. Pupils took on the role of government negotiators and each team began with their opening statement, setting out how the climate change crisis is impacting their country and then highlighting their own climate change targets. Following this, the delegates unanimously agreed that there is not enough progress being made on global emissions targets.  

This set the scene for a lively debate in which more developed countries like UK, EU and USA came under pressure to provide more financial and technical support to developing countries. Several countries also came under pressure to clarify their net zero targets, with many bringing their ambitions forward to 2030. The larger, developed countries came forward with financial pledges to support these ambitions. India came under fire for their 2070 target but quickly reassured the conference that this had been a misunderstanding and committed to 2030 targets. 

Conference in progress. Photo courtesy of Langley Eco Club Twitter.

Over a short break in proceedings, countries were asked to discuss possibilities for bilateral deals which would see progress towards common goals. Among the deals which were agreed, Chile and Brazil agreed to work in collaboration to help with deforestation and both the UK and the EU pledged £5bn to provide technical support to developing countries. In another vote, the majority of countries expressed a willingness to go beyond their current targets to do even more to tackle the crisis. Only two countries, Bangladesh and Bhutan, declined to do more on account of funding concerns. 

The chairs of the conference congratulated all countries on their valuable contributions to the debate, highlighting that more had been achieved in this short conference than is often achieved in the actual two-week event. It has been known for countries to take a day just to agree the agenda! 

The Sustainability Engagement Officer from Solihull Council, Sarah Lardner, spoke about the Department for Education (DfE) Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy. Along with the Leader of Solihull Council, Councillor Courts, she then presented several awards to the schools. These included the Greener Solihull Schools Award and the Love Solihull Award which supports schools and colleges to look after their neighbourhoods. 

The Mayor of Solihull welcomes students to the chamber. Solihull Council Twitter.

Students went on to have the opportunity of a Q&A Session with Councillor Ian Courts focused on the efforts of Solihull Council in tackling climate change. Councillor Courts was bombarded with questions as the pupils’ passion and enthusiasm for the issues continued to shine through. Councillor Courts highlighted many initiatives that Solihull Council is undertaking to cut carbon emissions including increasing the use of electric vehicles, encouraging businesses to sign up to sustainable practices and protecting wildlife. 

“This is my favourite event of the year and it’s good to be back! I gave my first speech on climate change in 1994 and it’s almost the same; the same challenges and actually the same solutions in many ways.” 

Councillor Courts

Before the conference closed, the pupils were asked for one “take away” of the morning. Several schools wanted to implement proper recycling bins and competitions to make the issue more fun and engaging. One group of pupils said, We want to educate other pupils before they get into the mindset of thinking that they can’t make a difference.” 

One climate action … 

As a ‘take away’ from the Conference, students were asked for one thing they would like to see happen in their schools.  

Students @ Alderbrook School want to: 

  • focus on energy conservation eg natural light instead of lights always on
  • integrate more environmental lessons into education 
  • be greater informed about local buses and bus routes 

 Students @ Arden Academy want to: 

  • influence and educate our younger community in the local area 

Students @ Grace Academy want to: 

  • introduce more recycling bins in all locations around the school 

Students @ Park Hall Academy want to: 

  • plant more trees in our school grounds 
  • add more bins 
  • use less plastic at lunchtimes 
  • consider taking part in the Greener Schools Award 

Students @ Tudor Grange Academy want to: 

  • have more competitions that help the school become more eco-friendly eg litter picking and tree planting 
  • use more eco-friendly and fairtrade items within school 
  • see more promotion of cycling in areas of Solihull  
  • have Bikeability training so more trips can be taken on bikes 
  • create an outdoor relaxation area at school 

Students @ Tudor Grange Academy Kingshurst want to: 

  • find out about solar energy and if solar panels could be fitted in school 
  • see a push on preventing so much litter around school and the local area 

*Thanks to all the Solihull schools who took part in the conference: Alderbrook School; Arden Academy; Grace Academy; John Henry Newman Catholic College; Langley School; Park Hall Academy; Solihull Sixth Form College; St. Peter’s Catholic School; Tudor Grange Academy; Tudor Grange Academy Kingshurst. 

ICN is grateful to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council for their funding and support. This initiative forms also part of our work with the International Climate Action Network project (I-CAN) co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.