Young people make themselves heard at Climate Conference

8th November, 2022

PKC Youth Climate Conference

Held at Dewars Centre, the event was organised by the Perth & Kinross Council as a pre-summit to COP27, the 27th annual climate change conference of the United Nations. The goals of the day were for young people to discuss climate change issues and solutions and explore how they can take action in their schools and communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Xander McDade, Provost of Perth & Kinross opened the conference and Divindy Grant, Climate Change & Sustainable Development team leader, who leads the Council’s Climate Change planning, set the scene for participants.

Provost Xander McDade said: "Climate change and the current biodiversity crisis are huge issues that are going to affect our young people the most. I am delighted to have been invited to open the conference and to hear the voices of our young people about the actions we should all be taking."

The day started with the launch of an Energy Saving Schools Challenge - a 5-month long competition to encourage energy savings and emission reductions in schools. As part of this competition, schools are to sign up with Energy Sparks. The school that makes the most improvements before the end of March 2023 will win £500 to be invested back into the school for climate action projects.

Energy Sparks is an online energy analysis toolkit and energy education programme that shows pupils and staff how much energy the school is using each day, with both adult and pupil dashboards. It presents personalised analysis of the energy data with suggestions of actions the school community could take to save energy and reduce the school’s carbon emissions.

Following on from this we had presentations from pupils from Breadalbane and Blairgowrie, discussing what they were doing to tackle climate change. This included reducing energy by switching off lights, getting new water fountains and reusable water bottles, recycling soft plastic, and writing letters to world leaders.

The conference was split into four key themes – Energy, Transport, Waste and Land Use.

The first of its kind, the Conference provided an opportunity for young people to hear from local businesses, organisations and sustainability communicators such as Stagecoach, SSE, Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture NextGen, Less Waste Laura, and Perth & Kinross Council on our four key themes.

Crucially, the Conference was a platform for young people to share their experience and identify actions they can take individually or collectively in their schools and their communities now and in the future. Young people were involved in engaging workshops on the four themes and discussed their ideas for change, and the actions they could take to help Perth & Kinross become more sustainable, biodiverse, and climate resilient.

Among the workshop facilitators were members from the council's own Climate Change team, Local Development plan team, Waste team, Energy team, as well as external facilitators from SSE, Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust, Scottish Communities Climate Action Network, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture Nextgen, and Peachykeen. As part of the workshops pupils wrote pledges for action they could take to protect nature and reduce their carbon emissions.

The involvement and enthusiasm of pupils that took part in the conference has made more ambitious action on climate change possible. We have encouraged pupils to share what they have learned from the conference with the rest of the school and inspire others to help make changes to the school that will reduce its carbon footprint. Our vision is for climate action to be incorporated into every aspect of school life, from curriculum to managing energy usage, to how schools encourage travel to and from school. With all pupils leading by example – pushing us to do better.