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Kingussie pupils will feature in Open University's mock COP for Highland schools

By Tom Ramage

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Ahead of COP 28 taking place in Dubai, secondary schools from across Highland and Moray will come together for their own Mock conference to have a voice and share the ambition of young people working for a fairer and more sustainable world.

Organised by The Open University in Scotland with Highland One World Global Learning Centre, Developing the Young Workforce Inverness & Central Highlands and Highland Council, the event at Highland Council Chambers in Inverness on Monday will bring 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.

Kingussie High School: keeping a watch on the planet. Picture David Macleod
Kingussie High School: keeping a watch on the planet. Picture David Macleod

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

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 at Developing the Young Workforce Inverness & Central Highlands said: “We’re pleased to be partnering to bring Mock COP 28 to the Highlands. 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, co-ordinator 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."

Kingussie will be joined in the event by pupils from Ardnamurchan Secondary School, Charleston Academy, Culloden Academy, Dingwall Academy, Fortrose Academy, Gairloch High School, Inverness Royal Academy, Invergordon Academy, Lochaber High School, Speyside High School and Tain Royal Academy.

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