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Climate change negotiations

Mock COP21 debate as part of Thinking Futures 2015

Mock COP21 debate as part of Thinking Futures 2015

Mock COP21 debate as part of Thinking Futures 2015

2 December 2015

On 12 November, as part of the University’s Thinking Futures festival, academics Ed Atkins, Alice Venn and Jack Nicholls ran a mock-COP21 debate for year 12 and 13 students.

Using semi-structured role-play, this event introduced 43 local students to the world of international politics.

The activity was designed to give A-level students insight into the United Nations international climate change Conference of the Parties; what’s involved in these important negotiations and how competing interests make international agreements a challenge to reach. Ahead of the negotiations in Paris this December, it was a timely and relevant event.

The focus was on communicating the political problems of climate change to students who may not necessarily understand the importance of political negotiations in any potential climate regime.

Along with these insights, the activity gave each student a chance to put his or her negotiation and public speaking skills to the test. The event saw the groups go through three rounds of negotiations, before casting votes on five key climate change themes. 

The students appreciated the chance to understand how negotiations work, and to think outside the classroom. One commented: ‘The day helped me to get a feel for global political issues,’ while others pointed out that it was ‘a different way of learning that allowed us to completely engage,’ and how ‘interesting and enjoyable learning about the effects of different decisions on individual countries’ was.

Something that surprised one student was ‘how difficult it is to find common ground on an issue that affects us all’, while another highlighted ‘how much nations agree on certain policies but how long it takes to make resolutions’.

Three PhD students developed the activity and organised the running of the event; their research involves a focus on how society interacts and engages with climate change. 12 other postgraduate students helped to facilitate the day.

In carrying out the research for the event, they were able to consider climate change from other, often opposing perspectives. Most importantly, the activity gave the PhD students experience in engaging young people with climate change issues. They found that young people care deeply about the politics of climate change and are motivated and passionate to be part of related activities.

A number of teacher observers also commented that they would be interested in running the event within their own school.

Further information

The Thinking Futures festival took place on the 5 - 13 November 2015, sharing and celebrating research from the University of Bristol's Faculty of Social Sciences and Law. The festival was co-ordinated by the Centre for Public Engagement and PolicyBristol as part of the national ESRC's Festival of Social Sciences.

Read one of the student facilitator’s thoughts about the day here