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Climate change is one of the most urgent issues facing us as global citizens. The “Hogwarts-like” setting of Fettes College in Edinburgh, Scotland was the location of the first-ever CAS Trips Global Student Conference, July 28-August 2. Attracted by the theme, “Global Climate Change: Understanding the Urgency – Accepting the Shared Responsibility,” 72 students representing 15 schools and 5 countries (Chile, Canada, Ecuador, Taiwan and the United States) attended.

During the five-day conference the participants had a mixture of CAS Trips activities dedicated to Creativity, Activity, and Service directives of their IB curriculum, in addition to an in-depth examination of one of the UN SDGs: “Climate Action.”

We see the effects of climate change daily – stronger hurricanes, droughts, melting glaciers, temperature extremes, displacement of populations, etc.  These problems that the younger generation did not create, are ones they will have to solve. It was evident very early in the GSC that the participants were well aware of this and have committed themselves to an active response to this challenge.

The conference started each day with a plenary session featuring:

  • Greenpeace activist Sally Romilly opened the conference with an introductory overview of climate change, and how Greenpeace has responded to the corresponding challenges for nearly 50 years.
  • Sam Fuller from Extinction Rebellion took the position that the era of gradual change has passed, and the urgency of the issue demands direct action based on non-violent civil disobedience.
  • Christoph Pellinger from FfE GmbH gave a scientific explanation for climate change research in electromobility, energy storage and electrical grids helping to design more effective pathways for decarbonizing participating European countries.
  • Erin Curtis, Emma Cook and Sandy Boyd of Scottish Youth Climate Strike (SYCS) and Charlie Abrams from Affected Generation, all of whom are 15-year old student activists, inspired everyone with their commitment to bringing attention to the climate crisis in their panel presentation.
  • Michael Radomir of Stand for Trees and Code REDD closed the conference with a more positive message. He explained how these organizations work to reverse the deforestation of certain areas in the developing world by planting trees and introducing the populations in these areas to consider alternative ways of making a living other than cutting down their forests.

Student engagement was a primary focus during the question and answer period following each presentation. Their questions were thoughtful and perceptive, and this engagement continued into the Global Action Team (GAT) sessions that followed each morning presentation. The GAT sessions were facilitated by IB educators and allowed the students to dig deeper into the issues and questions.

On the final afternoon, the GAT groups gave way to smaller group discussion as the students were separated into their school groups or regional groups for the purpose of completing the CAS Trips Changemakers Challenge that should lead to some very effective service projects relating to the climate change crisis.

Afternoon and evening activities provided opportunities for the students to get to know each other, share something from their home country, state, or province, and most importantly, experience a bit of Scottish culture. Anyone who witnessed the competitiveness of the rugby and cricket matches, the Highland Games, or the creativity of the improvisation lesson or dance class, and the outright fun of the Scottish Ceilidh would agree that these 72 students thoroughly enjoy themselves during this short week!

The key takeaways of this inaugural Global Student Conference were the following:

  • An increased knowledge of climate change, how we got to where we are, and the crisis that it represents.
  • The realization that the younger generation will have to solve this problem, and in many ways, they are already leading the way.
  • The amazingly positive energy that is created when dedicated teenagers from different parts of the world get together to engage on a problem of global concern.
  • Scotland is an amazing country with strong traditions and a rich history

Prepare yourself for a climate change conference encore theme next summer in three different locations – Asia, Europe, and America. The new theme will be Global Climate Crisis:  Innovation, Impact, Action.

Each conference will have options for students who are starting at the beginning in their understanding of the issue, and for those who know quite a bit about the climate crisis and want to take their understanding and action to the next level. Specific locations and dates will be announced soon!