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School students debate the climate crisis at COP28 simulation event

Mon 20th November 2023 - Blog Posts, Courses & Events Summaries, News, Schools and early learning & childcare settings, Young people

On 16 November, Learning for Sustainability Scotland, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, welcomed pupils from Scottish and Egyptian secondary schools to take part in the British Council’s COP28 Climate Simulation Negotiation.

Role-playing as politicians, journalists, and lobbyists, 80 pupils had the opportunity to find out what it’s really like to negotiate a climate deal.

This was the first time the event has come to Scotland and is the first in a series of similar events coordinated by the British Council in five cities across the UK as part of their Schools Connect programme for schools in the UK and around the world.

The debate took place in the run-up to the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) which starts on November 30 in the United Arab Emirates. Delegates were welcomed to Moray House School of Education and Sport by Professor David Smith, Head of School, and Peter Brown, Director of British Council Scotland, before a keynote address from Lucia Ramon Mateo: Learning for Sustainability lead at Scottish Government. 

During the negotiations, students had to agree on a global strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, consider nature-based climate mitigation strategies, and negotiate on financial aid packages – all with the goal of keeping global temperature rises to no greater than 2 degrees C. Scottish students aged 16-18 from nine secondary schools in the City of Edinburgh, West Lothian and East Ayrshire took part in person, whilst students from an international school in Egypt joined in online.

The negotiations were led by Professor Peter Higgins, Director of Learning for Sustainability Scotland (Scotland’s United Nations University-recognised Regional Centre of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development), and Professor Dave Reay, Executive Director at Edinburgh Climate Change Institute and Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh.

The event was also featured on the STV evening news.

What did participants have to say about the event?

Students Rosie Zisman, and Raphael Uddin from Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh shared the role of United Nations Secretaries-General.

Speaking about the negotiations, Raphael said“Today our aim was to reduce greenhouse emissions drastically and we just reached the target agreement for global warming – bang on 2.0 degrees. We were able to work together, compromise, and reach this goal and no countries were left behind or lost out. It was also great to have schools from Egypt join us online today, to hear about their experience during COP27 and to get an insight into the different issues, especially with COP28 coming up in Dubai”.

Rosie added: “We managed to reach consensus to fund $100 billion in climate financing per year globally, which was a big win. At 2 degrees, we will still see dramatic increases in climate change. Today gave us just a flavour of what is possible and it is progress, but not our final destination”.

Speaking at the event, Professor Reay said“We’ve seen skilled negotiations from the students today and many congratulations to all those taking part who have worked diligently debating the issues. It is extremely important that we have opportunities like this to maintain the conversation about the vital importance of keeping warming under 1.5 degrees.

“This event shows that while the global conversation on the climate crisis still falters, young people have the energy, drive and ambition to focus and ask the hard questions. Today at Moray House School of Education and Sport, we have had the privilege of working with future policy makers and global citizens, a generation who already know that activism for the planet is crucial”.

Peter Brown, Director, British Council Scotland provided a welcome to the students and added: “Well done to all those involved in today’s event – I’m delighted that young people from across Scotland, the wider UK, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates are coming together to actively engage in the challenges of climate change.

“Our research at the British Council shows clearly that the climate crisis is of deep concern – particularly to young people – and this event has put students at the head of the negotiating table. It has given them a unique chance to experience the realities of diplomacy and international negotiation such as that taking place at COP28; providing them with the skills and confidence to take on some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

Continuing the collaboration – next steps

The initiative is part of the British Council’s Climate Connection programme and the British Council is also supporting people globally to find creative solutions to climate change in support of the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in UAE this month.

This includes the FREE ‘Live at COP28’ MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), developed in partnership with the University of Edinburgh and Learning for Sustainability Scotland; which starts on 30 November.

Our warmest thanks goes to everyone involved, but particularly the young people and teaching staff from Balerno High School, Boroughmuir High School, Grange Academy, James Gillespie’s High School, Liberton High School, Portobello High School, St Margaret’s Academy, St Thomas of Acquin’s High School, West Calder High School and the British Columbia Canadian International School (Egypt).