COP this – Reading gets in ahead of Paris at Model Climate Conference

While intense negotiations at COP21 in Paris concluded 75 Students from across Reading and Wokingham gathered in Reading Borough Council Chambers on 11th December 2015 putting themselves in the positions of country delegations.

“Countries should not focus on what they have done to defend themselves when accused of their past, but what sacrifices they will make (to fight climate change) in future”
“Find the balance between economic growth and carbon reduction”
“Don’t make it someone else’s problem. Every person in every country is going to be affected by climate change so everyone needs to do their bit”

These were just some of the messages from school students in Reading to leaders at COP21 in Paris. On 11th December, on what should have been the last day of COP21, 75 students from five schools across Reading and Wokingham convened in Reading Borough Council chambers to play the roles of different countries negotiating a new global climate deal in Reading’s Model Climate Conference. They described the climate challenges in their countries, and presented their INDCs – Intended National Country Targets on carbon emission reduction. They negotiated more ambitious targets – seeing an increase in carbon reduction pledges and in pledges of financial support for climate change mitigation and adaptation focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable nations. Then the most challenging round of negotiations – trying to arrive at a legally binding climate agreement incorporating those targets and financial contributions, which was fair, ambitious and acceptable to all parties. We ended up with a proposal for a complex treaty (not quite 31 pages…), with countries legally bound to the targets they had agreed. It included a ratchet mechanism to increase ambition every five years in recognition that current targets would not be enough to limit global average temperature rise to below 2 degrees C (let alone the 1.5 or closer to 1 degree rise pushed for by the Small Island Developing States represented here by The Bulmershe School team taking on the role of The Maldives). We tackled differentiation according to economic circumstances, we explored options for both support and sanctions around targets, and having heard from renewable energy engineer Danny Bonnett of LICenergy UK on the exciting possibilities for energy generation and storage we discussed how to support a more rapid transition to a low carbon global economy. After strong debate with and within the USA team about the likelihood of ratification by Senate, the proposed treaty was agreed unanimously.
By 3.20 on Friday 11th December we had our agreement.
The calibre of the debate, the empathy, the passion and the understanding of complex issues displayed by the students was outstanding. Teachers, students and guests were impressed by the preparation, the commitment on the day and above all the determination to reach an equitable agreement for a positive future.
We had to wait a little longer, on tenterhooks, for the Paris negotiations to reach their conclusion the following day! And as our students were keen to point out at the Model Conference – now the real work begins. A global agreement is a great step forward. The task ahead is to put our actions and our money where our words and intentions are – continuing in this spirit of cooperation and collaboration between countries, between businesses, government, scientists and civil society. The Just Ideas team are looking forward to playing our part in that in 2016 and beyond – and look forward to continuing to work with InterClimate Network (ICN) and partners on the Climate Voices programme over the next three years.
The Reading Model Climate Conference, facilitated by the Just Ideas and ICN team, supported by Reading Climate Change Partnership and KYOCERA Document Solutions UK, was part of a InterClimate Network programme called Climate Voices, which has received funding from Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for three years. The Model Climate Conferences are a key part of that programme – we delivered four in November and December 2015 to coincide with COP21. To get a flavour of the four Model Conferences have a look at #modelCOP21, and to hear the latest from ICN follow @ClimateVoicesUK. Have a look at for more info about Climate Voices.