Scottish students debate on climate crisis at COP28 mock event

Pupils at the mock COP28 debate

OVER 100 pupils aged between 16-18 from Scottish schools played the part of politicians, journalists, and lobbyists to debate on the climate crisis.

They were taking part in the British Council’s COP28 Climate Simulation Negotiation at Moray House, School of Education, University of Edinburgh, and had the opportunity to find out what it’s really like to negotiate a climate deal. Delivered with Learning for Sustainability Scotland this debate was the first time the event has come to Scotland and the first in a series coordinated by the British Council in five cities across the UK. 

The event kicked off with a keynote address from Learning for Sustainability lead at Scottish Government, Lucia Ramon Mateo, with the debate taking place in the run-up to the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates which starts on November 30.

During the negotiations, the pupils had to agree on a global strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and successfully reduce global temperature rises to no greater than 2 degrees C, making sure that all countries were on target to reduce temperatures by 2030. To do this, they used computer software developed by Climate Interactive and MIT to create a real-life climate simulation.

They were led by Professor Peter Higgins, Director of the United Nations University Regional Centre for ESD (Scotland) and Professor Dave Reay, Executive Director at Edinburgh Climate Change Institute and Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh.

Attending the event students Rosie Zisman, and Raphael Uddin from Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh shared the role of United Nations Secretariat General. 

Speaking about the negotiations, Raphael said: “Today our aim was to reduce greenhouse emissions drastically and we just reached the target agreement for 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 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 $1billion 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, 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, he said about the event: “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.”

The initiative is part of the British Council’s Schools Connect programme for schools in the UK and around the world. The British Council works with education policymakers to explore effective practices from other countries and help teachers to bring an international perspective to the curriculum. This supports all young people to build the skills, knowledge and attitudes they need to respond to global challenges and develop international understanding. 

Through the Climate Connection programme, 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. The British Council is supporting the summit by engaging with networks of education professionals, students, academics, researchers, artists, civil society leaders and policymakers to participate in meaningful dialogue and bring about real change for our planet.

This 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 Scotland visit or follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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