Uniting the world to tackle climate change

By Abi Wharton, Head of Geography, Global Perspectives and Politics

The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. The aim of this conference is to bring the world together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

As Alok Sharma, the COP President-Designate states: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought devastation to millions around the world, disrupting many parts of the global economy. But climate change has continued, and it ultimately threatens life on earth. As countries begin to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic, we must take the historic opportunity to tackle climate change at the same time – to build back better, and greener. And we must. To keep the temperature of the planet under control – limiting its increase to 1.5 degrees – the science dictates that by the second half of the century, we should be producing less carbon than we take out of the atmosphere. This is what reaching ‘net zero’ means. The journey is already underway. Despite the pandemic, the direction of travel is changing. Around 70% of the world economy is now covered by net zero targets, up from less than 30% when the UK took on the Presidency of COP26. The world is moving towards a low carbon future.”

These aims must clearly be considered at a personal, local and national level to be successful globally. We are rightly very proud of our Bedales student body who are all too aware of the impact previous generations have had on the environment, and their responsibility to do more, and quickly, to protect the planet. Across the curriculum, students are conducting innovative academic research to prepare them to be the change makers of the future. Geography BAC students study a bespoke module on climate change unlike any other course at this level in the UK, and the Block 3 collaborative project between Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (PRE) and Geography focuses on ‘Who made my clothes?’, tackling globalisation, the winners and losers of a globalised economy, and the ethical implications of business practices on people and the environment. In Pre-U Global Perspectives students have chosen to research topics such as ‘The effect of COVID-19 on consumerism’ and ‘Is sustainability in the fashion industry sustainable?’ In tandem with this, students from across the year groups continue to be involved in a range of activities to raise awareness about the urgent need to do more.

As a prelude to the global conference taking place in Glasgow, East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds, in conjunction with East Hampshire District Council, has organised a local climate conference focusing on the action that can be taken locally to accelerate decarbonisation. The conference, which will involve Bedales students, will take place on Friday 8 October at The Maltings in Alton, to which everyone is invited. More information can be found on Damian Hinds’ website here and tickets can be booked here.

Living and thinking sustainably


This article was originally published in the Old Bedalian Newsletter 2020.

The whole school community has been doing more to reuse, reduce and recycle in the wake of the climate change campaign that has been dominating the streets and the media, drawing attention to the urgency of the global changes that need to be made.

Bedales hosted a ‘Funeral for the Planet’ earlier this year, where a climate emergency was announced. The event was organised by Bedales Head of Geography Paul Turner, who became one of the UK’s first United Nations-accredited climate change teachers. Bedales’ Geography department has also recently launched the UK’s first climate breakdown scheme of work, collaborating with other teachers and organisations.

Following this, a group of 60 students joined a climate change protest in March, marching from Parliament Square to Buckingham Palace and were encouraged by the amount of support they received from tourists, construction workers and even police officers. Students took part in more protests in Petersfield and in London, with a small group attending a symposium on climate change at the London School of Economics. A number of speakers were present including Lord Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, who addressed the question of, ‘What should individuals, communities, schools and universities do to stop climate change?’

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Bedales attend climate change symposium at LSE


By Olivia Grout-Smith, 6.2

Last Friday, a group of students was lucky enough to attend a symposium held at the London School of Economics (LSE) with the leading question ‘What should individuals, communities, schools and universities in the UK do to stop climate change?’ Following a very rousing morning at the climate strike at Petersfield’s Market Square, our spirits were high as we headed to London for the symposium.

Lord Stern of Brentford, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, was the first speaker. He addressed the question ‘What should we do to stop climate change while raising living standards in the UK and around the world?’ Highlighting the extreme importance of radical change amongst society as a whole, he began by saying that the world economy will double in two decades. In order to reduce two degrees, we must cut emissions by 40 percent.

Two more speakers, one a Camden politician and the other a member of the Women’s Institute, both expressed the importance of change in both local communities and beyond. The second half of the event was a 40 minute panel Q&A, addressing the question ‘What should individuals, communities, schools and universities in the UK do to stop climate change?’

In order to make actual change within schools, universities and colleges, the importance of education about the climate crisis within the curriculum was a key point. Though many students decide to take Geography GCSE and A Level, the majority do not. Another idea was to install a carbon offset scheme, so when students travel by plane or another environmentally damaging mode of transport, they can balance out the impact on the environment.

We came away from the symposium with a true feeling of inspiration and pride. One of the last speakers, Naomi Oreskes from Harvard University, made a very true statement about how, as a school or as individuals, we can change. She expressed that when we make statements or propositions for the future, we are sometimes criticised for being ‘unrealistic’. It is those unrealistic goals that drive social change and innovation that lead to a positive impact.