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Climate crisis put front and centre by Kingussie pupils at COP28 tie-in

By Philip Murray

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There were plenty of discussions at the COP38 tie-in. Picture: Callum Mackay.
There were plenty of discussions at the COP38 tie-in. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Climate crisis concerns were front and centre when pupils from Kingussie, the wider Highlands and Moray flocked to Inverness for a special event inspired by COP28.

The UN's latest climate change conference, COP28, got under way in Dubai this week – bringing politicians from all corners of the world together in the hope that agreements can be reached on measures to tackle global warming.

And, to mark the occasion, Highland and Moray pupils were given the chance to come together at Highland Council's headquarters to hold their own mock COP28 conference aimed at giving them a voice and helping them share their own ambitions for a fairer and more sustainable world.

The event in the council's chambers on Monday brought together fifth and sixth-year pupils to represent and negotiate on behalf of chosen countries and organisations while trying to make a difference in the battle against climate change.

Each school made up a country or organisation delegation and took part in three rounds of lively negotiations with the aim of reaching a better deal for people and the planet. There was also an opportunity for the pupils to hear from academics and representatives who have attended previous conferences and will be attending COP28.

Schools taking part ranged from Ardnamurchan Secondary School and Fort William's Lochaber High School in the south, to Gairloch High School in the north-west and Tain Royal Academy in the north-east. Other schools taking part included Charleston Academy, Culloden Academy, Dingwall Academy, Fortrose Academy, Inverness Royal Academy, Invergordon Academy, Kingussie High School, and Speyside High School in Aberlour.

The event was led by The Open University (OU) in Scotland with Highland One World Global Learning Centre, Developing the Young Workforce Inverness & Central Highlands (DYWICH) and Highland Council.

Launched as a virtual event to support COP26 in 2021 and then moving to an in-person event in 2022, the Open University in Scotland’s Mock COP has expanded from four schools taking part in its first year to 12 schools attending in 2023.

Gemma Burnside, partnership manager at the OU and lead organiser of the event, commented: “At the Open University in Scotland it is a key priority for us to contribute to environmental sustainability and to the debate around it in Scottish society. There are no quick fix solutions to climate change and it requires all of us to get to grips with the issues, if we are to make an impactful change.

“I am absolutely delighted that we are able to host the Mock COP again in 2023. The event gives pupils the opportunity to develop their communication and negotiation skills, as well as gain a better understanding of climate change and democracy, equipping them with key tools to lead the sustainability debate in future.”

Sandra McCaughey, Interim Programme Manager, Developing the Young Workforce Inverness & Central Highlands (DYWICH), said: “With demand for green jobs and skills expected to increase rapidly over the next few years, due to policy, legislative changes and consumer choice, we feel it’s important that we provide opportunities for our young people across the Highland region to take part in the climate change debate, share their voice and help shape the future.

“Taking part in an event like this also allows pupils to gain real world of work experience and valuable skills in communication, debating and team work.”

Catriona Willis, Coordinator at Highland One World, said: "Young people are understandably concerned about the climate emergency and what this means for their future. It’s crucial that we equip children and young people with the skills and opportunities they need to participate in important decisions that affect their lives.

“The Mock COP provides an excellent platform for participants to consider alternative futures, while developing important Global Citizenship skills including critical and systems thinking, political literacy, communication, empathy, and a belief that people can bring about positive change."

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