Photos of COP26 student competition winners
(l-r) Jack Johnson, Fisola Kelly-Akinnuoye and Matt Cockram

The winners of the University of Birmingham Climate Change Student Writing Competition 2021 have been announced, with the first prize awarded for a compelling article about the contribution made by armed forces to climate change. 

Students from across the University were invited to write short essays on the subject of ‘tackling climate change’. The overall winner receives £500 and will have their essay published by the University of Birmingham in September as part of a digital collection of environment-themed papers.  

Two runners-up will each receive £250 and will also have their articles published alongside the winner. 

Shortlisted entries were reviewed by a panel of judges that included: Professor Hisham Mehanna, Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor (interdisciplinary research); Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science; and former Environment Secretary Dame Caroline Spelman. 

The prize winners are: 

  • Jack Johnson, MSci Physics, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (First prize) - ‘The Impact of Militaries on Climate Change’
  • Fisola Kelly-Akinnuoye, BA English, College of Arts and Law (Runner-up) - ‘How can Literature tackle climate change?’
  • Matt Cockram, BA/BSc Liberal Arts & Sciences (Runner-up) - ‘6 Lessons Etymology can Teach us about Tackling Climate Change’

First prize winner Jack Johnson’s essay impressed the judges with its originality and thought-provoking conclusions. 

Shortlisted entries: 

  • Lee Ollerenshaw - ‘Food for thought: How to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by utilising brownfield sites and food waste’ 
  • Izzy Miller - ‘Tackling climate change’ 
  • Adela Mullerova - ‘Tackling Climate Change in Light of the 2020 Events’ 
  • Francesca Hutchin - ‘Can we learn from past societies’ responses to climate change?’ 
  • Adam Jackson - ‘Tackling Climate Change using Nuclear Power’ 
  • Elena Vasiljevic - ‘Conscious Consumerism: How will the modern-day fashion industry adapt for the benefit of the planet?’ 
  • Rachel Venn - ‘A Tale of Two Londons’ 

Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our remarkable planet today. We need to come together as a global community with innovative ideas to reduce carbon emissions and protect biodiversity. This competition showed that younger generations will have no shortage of ideas and, as judges, we were really impressed by the way each of the prize winners made us think about climate change in a new way. Congratulations to our worthy winners!

Professor Alice Roberts

Dame Caroline Spelman said: “The essays showed just how the challenge of climate changes ignites the interest of younger generations to tackle it with solutions urgently. The quality of writing by students across a wide range of disciplines and different stages of their education was impressive. The really inspiring aspect was the originality of thought that gives us all hope that together we can redress the damage my generation has done.” 

Professor Hisham Mehanna said: “Congratulations to all of the prize winners for their outstanding articles on the subject of tackling climate change. The quality of entries was exceptionally high, which just goes to show what an important contribution students can make to global policy debates. If we are serious about finding solutions for a warming planet then we need to involve groups across the whole global community, and giving a voice to younger generations is particularly important.”