Sixth form pupils from across Northern Ireland came together recently (Friday, 5 November) to debate on the biggest issue facing the planet – the climate crisis.
They were taking part in British Council Northern Ireland’s COP26 Climate Simulation Negotiation event at Parliament Buildings Stormont, which saw the pupils play the part of world leaders, lobbying groups or media, in a bid to discover what it’s like to negotiate a real climate deal.
The event, which used computer software developed by Climate Interactive and MIT to create a real-life climate simulation, was taking place to coincide with the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, which runs until 12 November.
During the negotiations, the pupils had to collectively agree on how much they were going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by, how they would help struggling nations, and agree on ways to adapt to climate change to protect their cities and people.
The negotiations were led by Dr Peter Doran, Senior Lecturer in Law, from Queen’s University Belfast, with pupils also zooming in to the event live from Egypt - with the British Columbia Canadian International School in El Sharouk taking on the role of the UK as part of the proceedings.
Speaking at the event was Cameron Muir, from Regent House Grammar School, who represented the United Nations Secretary-General.
He said: “At the end of the negotiations we ended up agreeing to global temperature rises below 2.3 °C, which obviously isn’t ideal, as we were hoping to get below 2°C. But everyone worked really hard - all our leaders were campaigning to get funding for climate solutions and really worked well together, it was a good effort for sure.
“Today was a great experience and gives us an insight into what is happening in Glasgow this week at COP26. Our future generations have no hope if we don’t do something now and get together and change. I know it’s difficult and very complex, but politics shouldn’t be involved – it should be about the future of humanity, being kind and working together.”
Ahead of the event, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said: “Education plays a crucial role in informing our young people about climate change and its impact. Sustainable development is already part of the Northern Ireland curriculum via the World Around Us area of learning at primary level and through the Environment and Society area of learning at post-primary level. The COP 26 event is a great way to introduce a number of elements of the curriculum, together with current affairs, in a way that directly engages the pupils.”
Also commenting was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, said: “Today’s event put pupils in the hot seat by taking on the role of leaders – giving them a real flavour of what negotiations such as those taking place in COP26 are like. It’s also a chance for them to experience the complexities and challenges in reaching international agreement on such urgent global issues.
“Today’s initiative is part of our global programme, The Climate Connection, which brings young people around the world together in 2021 to meet the challenges of climate change ahead of COP26 through co-operation, dialogue and action. I am delighted that the voice of Northern Ireland’s young people continue to actively engage in this global programme.”
The Climate Connection, which launched in June 2021, brings people together through arts and culture, education, and the English language to address the climate emergency through a global programme of activity and engagement, with particular focus on young people aged 11 to 35. The programme supports young people to gain the skills and connections they need to address climate challenges
Through the programme, the British Council has reached almost two million people online and directly engaged with over 2,000 young people to date, including indigenous communities, artists, academics, scientists, and creative innovators, to find long-lasting, creative ways to tackle multiple issues relating to the climate crisis.
This negotiation event continues the British Council’s work, building connection, understanding and trust between people in the UK and overseas through arts, education and English language teaching. To find out more about their work in Northern Ireland visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.