Empowering Youth

Innovative Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Looking down on a ring of metal pylons in a mature oak forest

BIFoR Free Air Carbon Enrichment project in Staffordshire

Understanding the Climate Emergency

The climate emergency demands our immediate attention. We need to focus on understanding the impacts of this global challenge and find robust solutions to enable our social ecological systems to thrive. Anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are the primary driver of climate change, leading to severe disruptions in weather patterns including storms, droughts and extremes of temperature. Plants take in and store carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and so they are central to understanding and mitigating climate change. With forests being particularly vulnerable to climate change due to their size and spread, it is imperative to leverage their potential for capturing carbon and safeguarding biodiversity.

Empowering Youth for Global Solutions

In the face of these challenges, today’s youth are not just concerned but driven to actively contribute to finding local solutions with global impact. While education systems currently cover information about climate change and sustainability, our resources aim to equip students and educators with the latest research findings and the skills needed to develop solutions in their classrooms. This approach complements key strategic aims of a 2023 DFE policy paper on Climate Change and Sustainability. And supports the DFE’s vision for the United Kingdom to be the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030.

Insights from BIFoR

At BIFoR (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research), in person and virtual ecosystem tours aim to provide invaluable insights. Forest landscapes at the global scale, are united by common ecological and physiological features in addition to their responses to climate change. However, they each have their own distinct features that are reflected within our resources. For instance, in the UK, our education resources focus on an oak forest in Staffordshire, where a groundbreaking experiment examines the effects of exposing trees to future carbon dioxide levels. We also explore the links between forestry ecology and fantasy fiction at Ruskin Land, with an immersive tour of the Wyre Forest. Work at COP28 in Dubai with local schools informed the development of an additional virtual tour of a mangrove site under threat. Here we examine the impact of salinity, storms and pollution on the sustainability of this culturally and biologically important ecosystem. We are taking this a step further, by developing a virtual amazon with researchers and local teachers. This allows us to triangulate further and support students internationally to harness their local perspectives for global action.

Building a ‘Future Forest’

Our comprehensive ‘future forest’ exercise builds on this work. Three fully resourced lessons allow pupils to: i) explore the causes and effects of climate change on our forests, ii) develop and critique solutions and iii) develop resources to convince others of the value of their solutions and plan their implementation. As they participate in the process, students gain a range of transferable skills and are empowered to articulate their views and amplify their voice regarding the causes, effects and potential solutions to the climate crisis. During the COP28 conference, groups of students who have taken part in this process, delivered their solutions in the Green Zone. Solutions pitched ranged from the use of public transport, to deforestation and carbon taxes. Their activity generated keen interest from the delegates including Dubai Ministry of Education and the British embassy in Dubai. By bringing together participants from around the world, we encourage the exchange of local perspectives and the exploration of global solutions, leading us to COP30 in Brazil, where we will empower the voices of youth and present innovative solutions to this global issue.