Hold your own United Nations Climate Change Conference!
The 2018 UN Climate Change Conference, also called the COP24 conference, begins in Katowice, Poland on 3rd December 2018. The UN’s aim is to hold countries to their binding agreements to reduce emissions that will help the world move to a low-carbon future.
The Global Learning Programme has produced this resource to support schools wishing to use this as an opportunity to investigate climate change, and at the same time focusing pupils’ thinking on ideas such as development, sustainability and interdependence.
The resource includes support to prepare for, run and follow up a school climate change conference, including investigating the religious dimensions of sustainability, and is adaptable if you wish to run similar activities after 2018.
This resource is targeted at Key Stages 2 and 3. It will particularly support teachers in developing:
- pupils’ knowledge and understanding of climate change and its impact in different parts of the world
- pupils’ knowledge and understanding of global themes including development, interdependence and sustainability
- pupils’ enquiry, critical thinking and discussion skills
- opportunities for pupils to consider their own and others’ values.
Activity 1: Your school’s climate change conference
A number of schools already run Model UN Conferences; there is already extensive support for the format on the United Nations Association UK website.
A Global Learning Programme Expert Centre on the Isle of Wight ran a Climate Change Conference as part of a Key Stage 2 to 3 transition project: you’ll find more details here.
The Met Office has also prepared activities to support a climate change conference, primarily for older pupils. It includes detailed country resources, support for negotiations and greater structure for the conference: http://www.metlink.org/climate/climate-negotiations-for-schools/
The introductory video might also be useful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efb1KL16Bn4&feature=youtu.be
To participate fully in their school conference, it is important that pupils take part from a position of knowledge and understanding, including about climate change; the implications for different countries at the conference; and the role of the UN, together with awareness of how a conference might work.
Investigating climate change, and the implications for countries:
Using the Climate change links resource:
- you could select resources to support pupils in investigating the causes of climate change, or use selected animations, graphics and graphics to brief them more formally;
- if pupils already have good knowledge and understanding of the causes of climate change, you could build on this by using some of the websites to investigate the range of impacts of climate change on people and environments in different parts of the world, perhaps homing in on the twelve focus countries for the school conference. It is important pupils know where these countries are, so this might be the time to begin building up a world map of their locations and adding details of the climate change impacts;
- you could show pupils information about the twelve countries from the Climate Change Database from either the intro or full dataset (depending on age/ability). What do the different items of data mean, and what are the implications for climate change; which items do pupils think might be more or less important? Do they notice any geographical patterns relating to the countries, for example: which emit most carbon dioxide (CO2); which use most fossil fuels?
Extension: Using the Climate Change Database, you could
- get pupils to use either Excel™ or graph paper to chart and display the data sets. If you have started a group or class world map, you could add charts or graphics to the map, for example as located bars on each country;
- use the Climate change links resource to add additional data, perhaps challenging pupils to find the most relevant additional data, or exploring changes over time, for example using the Gapminder site;
- if you have more time, you could share the twelve focus countries around different groups to investigate in more detail, focusing on each country’s development needs, energy mix and climate change impacts.
Investigating the UN, and how their conference might work
You might use the PowerPoint™ Introduction to the Climate Change Conference to build up the big picture of the Conference:
- you could work through the presentation to discuss how the UN works, the concept of negotiation and the background to the conference, choosing slides that are relevant to the age of your pupils. They may be able to think of examples in school or more widely about how to solve difficult problems by negotiation;
- you could show pictures of different UN formats, such as the General Assembly, Security Council and Climate Change talks from the UNA or UN sites: which set-up do they think would be the best format for their school conference? If you have more time, or wish to split roles up, pupils might be able to organise a climate change display area, press room etc around their conference event;
Using the final slide of the PowerPoint™ Climate Change Conference Aims:
- introduce pupils to the countries represented at their conference. If you haven’t already done so, you could use atlases to identify and name the countries on an outline world map or display map;
- if pupils already have good geographical knowledge, you could get them to sort countries into groups, e.g. by continent, developed/emerging/developing, and what they know about the countries’ climate change contributions or impact.
The Climate change country information sheets are designed to support pupils working in groups of about three to prepare for and take part in the conference. They have been prepared from a position of knowledge about possible approaches to the conference, although they cannot be taken as representing official policy.
- Pupils will represent a country’s views and interests, rather than their own opinions, so their preparation time to get into role is important. There are Conference Country Cards for each delegation’s table to support their country identity.
- You might want to prepare one group of pupils to represent the UN in helping negotiations and deal-making: there is ‘country’ information and a ‘country’ card to support them.
- There will be speeches at a conference, so you could invite two or three people to make short presentations at yours. Examples might include your local authority sustainability officer, a representative of local business, an expert from a local college or university or student union officer.
- Pupils will present their country’s views to the conference, then debate with others. You might want to create informal opportunities to negotiate, as well as doing so formally.
- The conference should develop a draft resolution for further debate; you might want to allocate this task to another pupil/s, perhaps in role as UN facilitators. The conference can then debate the resolution, table amendments and reach a final resolution, agreed by at least the majority of delegations.
Many of the preparation activities may also be appropriate ways to follow up specific questions raised by pupils during the conference. In addition, you could:
- debrief the conference: what did pupils learn: e.g. about climate change, the UN process, this method of working?
- investigate the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals: which directly or indirectly relate to climate change? How do they link to the conference outcome?
- share approaches with a partner school through e-twinning, perhaps by holding parallel conferences and sharing resolutions and conclusions;
- research additional countries not represented at the conference and prepare similar one-page summaries.
Follow-up ideas in the school and community
Countries at the Climate Change Conference will be making pledges to reduce emissions and take action: you might extend pupils’ understanding by investigating how the school, businesses or community is making similar adaptations to the challenges of climate change, for example:
- In your school, the school site team may support investigations into energy use and conservation. Both the Ecoschools Award and the Ashden Awards (see links) have a range of school-focused sustainability activities, the latter with a climate change focus.
- Many Local Authorities still have sustainability, energy efficiency or waste officers, some of whom are involved in school outreach work. Your Local Authority website will have information about local approaches to climate change, for example a climate change action plan, and responses to EU 2020 targets for energy and climate change.
- Local businesses may be focused on developing a Low Carbon Economy, for example through home insulation, or sustainable sourcing of food. Some may be working with the Carbon Trust or be linked to a wider network such as Transition Towns, or community organisations that promote low carbon and sustainable futures.
Although it is adults who are responsible for climate change, some schools like to give pupils opportunities to get involved.
- You could challenge groups of pupils to choose one aspect of climate change to research and follow up, for example by lobbying the school leadership team for changes in school or creating a presentation for other pupils, then sharing what they achieved with their class.
- You could get pupils to make their own pledges, write them on postcards and collect them – maybe adding one yourself. Hand them out at the end of term: how well did they manage to keep their pledge; and what were the challenges of keeping it? The FutureMe website allows you to do this electronically.
Activity 2: What can we learn from religious ideas about the environment?
You could follow up the conference by exploring some religious perspectives on environmental stewardship using these resources:
For more information www.arcworld.org/arc_and_the_faiths.asp
Resource created by, Geographical Association, Oxfam, RE Today the Climate Change Coalition and for the Global Learning Programme-Wales.