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Chance for schools to join international climate change debate

Published June 22, 2021 11.26am

Schools across County Durham are being invited to collaborate with children and young people from around the world to learn, think and discuss climate change ahead of this year's United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

Durham Federation pupils

Children from The Durham Federation taking part in a litter pick activity.

Through the ECO2 Smart Schools Programme, we are working with OASES (Outdoor and Sustainability Education Specialists), and Durham University to produce a series of educational resources and films which schools can access to support learning around climate change.

The resources explore COP26 themes including adaptation and mitigation, nature, transport, energy and finance, as well as empowering young people to think about their own response to climate change and share actions they are currently doing to support this.

Collaborative effort 

Along with receiving educational resources and the offer of in-school support, schools will also be invited to attend a live virtual ECO2 Smart Schools Climate Conference event this October where they will be able to ask questions of experts from Durham University, as well as hear from David Saddington, a former Durham University student who now works for the government on climate policy. At the conference sessions, pledges from pupils and their asks of their school, local authorities and COP26 itself will be collated.

The conference, a collaboration between Durham University's Energy Institute, ourselves and OASES, will educate and inform on the issues being debated at this year's COP26 conference, which takes place in November.

Sharing best practice 

Over 60 schools in County Durham have already signed-up to receive resources, with more confirming each day, including The Durham Federation.

Suzanne Nesbitt, geography teacher and climate lead at the school, said: "We have signed up to take part in the School Climate Conference with the aim of educating ourselves further on the issues of climate change, to learn more and be empowered to take action in school and the local area.

"We have been partnered with a school in Europe and we are looking forward to collaborating with them to attain more knowledge about how other countries are taking action and hopefully we can share best practice and implement more strategies."

What initially started as a small idea to support County Durham schools has grown into a massive and exciting international project with schools from India, Russia, Germany, France, Mexico, Australia, Hungary, Tanzania and the United States taking part.

County Durham schools will be partnered with international schools in small clusters to learn about how schools from around the world are experiencing and adapting to climate change and what changes they would like to see at their schools and on a national and global scale to support climate change.

Responding to climate change 

Researchers at Durham University have given their insights and examples from world-class research on climate change and energy to the educational materials and films, ensuring the children and teachers taking part in the project will have access to the latest cutting-edge research.

Cllr Mark Wilkes, our Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for children in our schools to learn more about the most important environmental issue of our time. I'm sure that some interesting discussions will be had among youngsters from County Durham and those in other countries about what we can do to respond better to climate change."

Professor Claire O'Malley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global) at Durham University, said: "Durham University is delighted to be working with Durham County Council and OASES on this exciting project to enhance education on climate change and inspire children across the globe to take action. Education led by cutting-edge research is one of the university's key principles for students of all ages."

Professor Douglas Halliday, director at Durham Energy Institute and one of the contributing researchers to the project, said: "Climate change is one of the most significant challenges faced by humanity and it is right that our young people are fully informed about the complex challenges which face our society today. Harnessing the expertise of students and staff at Durham Energy Institute has enabled us to put together these amazing resources to inform, inspire, and empower young people to learn more to make a positive difference for their futures."  

Our pledge 

In 2019 Durham County Council declared a climate emergency and pledged to:

  • Reduce carbon emissions from Durham County Council's operations by 80 per cent from 2008/09 levels by 2030, making significant progress towards making Durham County Council and County Durham as a whole carbon neutral.
  • Investigate what further actions are necessary to make County Durham Carbon Neutral by 2050 and pledge to achieve this.

Schools that are interested in signing-up to receive the learning resources and taking part in the project should email or visit by Wednesday 30 June 2021 to register interest.

For more information on our response to climate change, go to our climate change page