On Thursday 11 November, Solihull Council once again successfully hosted the Solihull Schools Climate Conference in partnership with Interclimate Network (ICN). Students from nine secondary schools across the borough were warmly welcomed by the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Ken Meeson, to the Council Chamber to take part in a model COP26 summit.
The Solihull Schools Climate Conference provides students with valuable insight and motivation to explore the global impact of climate change, as well as developing their public speaking and critical thinking skillsets.
Each team of students undertook the role of a country in the UN, offering a short opening speech before delving into the formal negotiation process, putting forth their country’s views on climate change and debating progress towards the Paris Agreement.
The Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Ken Meeson, opened the conference with some words about Solihull’s continued dedication to climate action:
“It is wonderful to see so many people here to combat what has been acknowledged worldwide as the biggest challenge facing present and future generations.
“It is appropriate that we hold this event in the Council Chamber, where we make important decisions affecting the lives of the people in Solihull.
“Climate change is a topic we have been debating greatly over the last few years. We have ambitious plans in Solihull to reduce energy use and encourage our residents to lower their carbon footprint.
“These changes are important to me, but they are far more important to the youth, as they are the generation that will have to live with the effects of climate change. They are the key to our planet’s future, and members of the older generation, myself included, can learn so very much from them.
“There are a lot of changes coming. Some we will find easy, others are going to be quite challenging for all of us. We are expecting our new hybrid Mayoral car next week, and we are making sure it is environmentally friendly, most of my journeys will now be electric and not contributing to carbon emissions.
“I hope the students enjoy the conference and contribute to the debate to the fullest extent. If you believe you have good ideas, do not be afraid to voice them.”
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, shared his remarks following the conference:
“I’d like to thank the students of our schools in Solihull for taking part in this event, the ICN, our school staff and Solihull Council for helping to get this event in place.
“In previous years, the students have learnt a huge amount from this experience. They gain a broadened perspective. They understand that different countries have unique issues to overcome, and there needs to be an empathetic consideration of these issues if we are to move forwards with climate action as a global unit.
“We need to take action on climate change. It’s not just about the effect of carbon emissions in our towns and cities. We need to focus on other types of pollution – soil and water contamination, light pollution, noise pollution – and their effects on biodiversity and delicate ecosystems.
“We’re seeing trees, plants and animal disappear at an alarming rate and we need to stop this. Biodiversity is integral to our quality of life; we need to do as much as we can in the name of conservation as well as sustainability.
“I only wish world leaders could be present at events like this. To take on board the great ideas and passion our young generation has for the preservation of our planet. The youth of today is admirable in their drive for change.
“To the students of the world: never stop preaching the message we need to take action on climate change.”
Councillor Andy Mackiewicz, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Climate Change, Planning and Housing, briefly added:
“Tonight we are hoping to pass our Net Zero Action Plan for the borough to be net zero by 2041, having already passed the Net Zero by 2030 plan for the Council.
“I must apologise for my generation. We are late to the table when it comes to climate action. When I was of school age, we had an energy crisis; when I was at university studying chemical engineering, all the technology was in place to deal with net zero but we didn’t have the attitude to do it.
“What we’re looking for now is a change in mindset and attitude. From now on we must move forward with a different way of doing things.”
To learn more about what Solihull Council is doing to tackle climate change, check out the ‘Courts on Climate Change’ podcast on Spotify or the Council website. In episode one, Councillor Ian Courts sits down with special guests Birgitta Varga and Tony Elvin to discuss the work the Council is doing with local schools around climate change and sustainability. The conversation touches on the ICN Solihull Schools Climate Conference and the upcoming Greener Solihull School Awards.
Solihull Council would also like to highlight and congratulate the achievements of the students of Lyndon School – close collaborators with the Council and InterClimate Network – whose climate action group recently gained recognition from major radio stations: Capital, Smooth and Heart. Read more about the students’ efforts on Lyndon School’s website.