Over eighty students from Bristol and South Gloucestershire secondary schools are taking the lead in debating the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement, and also in discussing with local leaders what more can be done in their area to reduce carbon emissions.
Arranged by the organisation InterClimate Network with the support of Bristol City Council, the students met today (Wednesday 22nd November) in Bristol City Hall, taking part in a Model Climate Conference. After a formal opening by Green Cabinet Member Fi Hance, students took part in a debate about how countries can implement and improve on the commitments made at the United Nations Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December 2015. Fifteen teams of students represented different countries like China, the UK, Bangladesh and Fiji, and discussed the same issues that were debated in the UN Climate Conference (COP23) held in Bonn from 6th to 17th November.
The 2015 Paris Conference, signed by 197 countries, secured pledges to reduce emissions that will limit global temperature increases to about 2.5 o Celsius. As in Bonn, the students challenged each other on what their countries are doing to put their pledges into practice, share best practice ideas, and consider how they can urgently increase the ambition of national plans.
After the debate the students heard from Bristol Youth Council, business, and charity leaders on what is being done locally to reduce damaging carbon emissions. They developed suggestions on what more could be done in Bristol, and in their schools and communities, to reduce emissions and tackle climate change.
Opening the event, Green Cabinet Member Fi Hance said:
“What with the madness of the world and the news cycle, it can be easy to forget the importance of climate change. But we know it is the single greatest threat to the future survival and wellbeing of people, animals, and our planet.”
“Climate change can often seem to be a vast, scary and insurmountable challenge. It can almost lead to a sense of helplessness – what can anyone do to put a halt to the enormity of what’s happening to our planet? But as local politicians, we can’t run away – our job is to take action. You probably know that any politician worth their salt is more than happy to say that they will fight climate change – pledge this, promise that, but working out how to actually achieve that is the tricky bit.”
As Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste and Regulatory Services, Councillor Hance is responsible for Bristol’s progress on carbon emissions targets. Recently it was announced that the council had met its targets of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions from council operations three years ahead of schedule. Last week Councillor Hance attended the COP23 Climate Conference in Bonn on behalf of Bristol, where she explained the city’s actions and progress in bringing down emissions.
Speaking after the event, Green Group leader Councillor Eleanor Combley said:
“It was so encouraging to see young people from in and around Bristol coming together to focus on the solutions we need to reduce the impact of climate change. The richest 10% of people in the world are responsible for over half of global carbon emissions. Before you think that just means a few wealthy individuals, it includes over half of the UK population. The change we need has to come from wealthier countries like the UK.
“As a port city, Bristol has to be particularly conscious of the dangers of climate change. Even if we succeed in keeping the average temperature rise to 2o this century (which is ambitious given progress so far) whole areas of the coast near Bristol will be below sea level. Climate change is going to affect us and those around us, and the InterClimate Network is doing great work in helping our young people to learn about both the seriousness of the challenge and their own power in tackling it.”