Lessons from a mini-COP

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be part of a delegation at a COP Climate Summit. What would it be like to be negotiating with other delegations each trying to represent their own interests? All wondering whether the actions they are proposing will have the impact they desire and will be acceptable to others? Hoping against hope that some progress can be made, that everyone can eventually agree on a path forward.

If, like me you immersed yourself in the flood of media interest spewing forth from the COP26 negotiations you might think you have grasped a reasonable idea of what it must be like to be one of those delegates. But what if you could go one step further and experience it for yourself?

Imagine what it might be like to be at a UN Climate Summit

During the COP26 fortnight I did just that with a group of 60 school pupils from the Ridgeway Education Trust schools including Didcot Girls School, St Birinus and Didcot Sixth form, in their very own mini-COP. We made use of the Climate Action Simulation, a group role play game developed by Climate Interactive that enables participants to explore solutions for mitigating climate change using real world data in combination with the power of the En-ROADS Climate Simulator.

Delegates were split into teams and asked to take on the roles of various interest groups including Climate Justice Activists, World Governments, Clean Technologies, Industry and Commerce, Conventional Energy and Land, Agriculture & Forestry. By playing these roles, which were in many cases at odds with their own values and priorities the pupils were able to experience the challenge from a new perspective and to understand what matters to people from these sectors and what drives their thinking. To add some authenticity to the occasion I took on the challenge of stepping into the role of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, kicking off the event with a thought provoking challenge. My co-facilitator for the day was Hannah, one of the Student Climate Leaders, who did an admirable job in her role as Patricia Espinosa, keeping the delegates focused on our goal of limiting warming to +1.5C as the rounds progressed.

I call on you today as global representatives to balance the need for climate action with that of your own and your stakeholders’ needs and to create a feasible roadmap to stay well below 2°C of warming. My friends we have the tools to make the fundamental changes that are necessary We need only find the will to put them into action.

Excerpt from my opening speech in my role as Antonito Guterres

Within their assigned roles the groups engaged in several rounds of the Climate Simulation game which involved proposal of potential policies and exploration of the possible impact of those policies on greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature and sea level over the coming century. There was plenty of opportunity for negotiation with other groups to explore common ground and find policies which could be broadly accepted even if some level of compromise had to be made. The outcome from our mini-COP was somewhat more promising than the one in Glasgow achieving a projected rise in global temperature of +1.6C, close to the stated goal of +1.5C.

During the Debrief we all stepped out of our roles and paused to reflect on how we were feeling

Our delegates were excited by this outcome and in a poll at the end of the game most of them expressed feelings of hope and positivity. The game had given them a fair share of feeling sad and mad too as policies were overturned or watered down and progress reversed along they way. The Climate Justice group not only had to suffer the indignity of sitting on the floor but at the end of round 1 they endured a flood as sea levels rose by more than a metre. It was by no means plain sailing, but then that is the power of combining the role play with the simulator – everyone gets to experience the journey of collaborating, negotiating, prototyping and crafting together a solution that is not perfect but can be a basis to start from.

Adding a bit of drama by modeling the projected sea level rise of >1m using a blue sheet to flood the delegates representing Climate Justice

Having come to recognise that solving the Climate Crisis is possible with the tools we have available and acknowledging that it will not be easy, the delegates were then able to step out of their roles and discuss real life actions that they could take either at home or at school. Things that would enable them to put some of their broader policies from the game, such as rapidly moving away from fossil fuels, improving energy efficiency or reducing methane emissions, into practice. Using the five main Climate Solutions topics of Transport and Travel, Energy in the Home, Food and Land Use, Money and What we Buy, the groups put forward a number of ideas to implement at their schools in the coming months with a particular focus on waste, both in terms of reducing waste of all kinds and in terms of better management of waste materials. I am very much looking forward to helping them put many of those ideas into action!

Translating learning from the simulation to tangible actions using our Climate Solutions Resources

The whole event left me buzzing with energy and filled with hope. The pupils were buzzing too; the power of the role play experience had really helped them to understand that the world is full of many perspectives not just their own and that it is possible to navigate a path forward through patient negotiation and positive collaboration. Seeing the potential outcomes of their ideas revealed through the power of the En-ROADS simulator gave them the freedom to explore and the confidence to change their minds and adapt their plans. A learning experience they will be able to take forward into situations where fruitful collaboration will be the key to solving future problems.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and took a lot away from it… I thought it was interesting to role play and make use of the En-ROADS program… I really enjoyed the ‘how we can apply this to our school’ section that followed…

I absolutely loved it and came home inspired, motivated, full of confidence and with a real interest in a career in negotiating!

Some feedback from participants

The Climate Simulation Game can be run with groups of any age from about 14 years up. All you need is a willingness to step into someone else’s shoes and explore with an open mind. If you would like to experience a mini-COP of your own to help you better understand which solutions can help to solve the Climate Crisis and what Climate Actions you can take individually or as a group then why not drop me a line I will be happy to help.

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