From the COP26 Blue Zone Pavilion, the British Council is engaging in discussions on the role of educational and cultural policy in tackling climate emergency.
‘As a diverse group, we are more than committed to act and to lead on climate action, but we can’t do this alone, and neither can you. But you do have the power to “mainstream” youth climate action, to increase access to knowledge and skills development through social media and other platforms and to provide opportunities for young people to co-develop and sustain climate solutions. Together, the young people of the Philippines can become a symbol of hope for others around the world, but only if you include us in plans and actions to address the major environmental challenges facing our country, and our planet.’
This is the message of young Filipinos from the Global Youth Letter on Climate Action (GYL)* as part of the British Council’s global Climate Connection programme during the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland from 1-12 November. The GYL contributed towards the COY16’s Global Youth Statement that was presented to Minister Alok Sharma MP, COP26 President on 5 November as part of the Young and Future Generations Day.
Through the Climate Connection programme, the British Council supports people around the world to find creative solutions to climate change. Through arts and culture, education, and the English language they address the climate emergency through global activities and engagement, with particular focus on young people aged 11 to 35.
537 young Filipinos were surveyed for the GYL research. The report found that the three main effects of climate change they see are: decreased agriculture productivity, dry seasons (frequent/severe) and disturbed rainfall patterns.
Lotus Postrado, Interim Country Director Philippines, said: ‘The climate emergency is the biggest crisis facing our planet so it’s no surprise that our research has found that it is the number one priority for young people the world over. Young Filipinos have told us that they cannot participate in climate action because there is little or no access to knowledge resources, there are limited or no community-level initiatives to engage youth in climate action and those media initiatives in creating awareness are insufficient. As world leaders gather in Scotland for COP26, we must ensure that the voices of our youth in the climate change conversations are not overlooked and that they are included in climate policy decisions that will impact their futures.’
The British Council in the Philippines launched the local Add Your Voice for Climate Action campaign in October. The initiative featured notable guests such as the UK government's COP26 Regional Ambassador to Asia-Pacific and South Asia Ken O'Flaherty, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils and representatives from the youth sector such as the Local Conference of Youth, AISEC, OSYAF, SSI and Wavefarers among others. The British Council partnered with the British Embassy Manila, the Department of Science and Technology – Science and Technology Information Institute and UP Los Baños. Over 700 Filipinos signed the GYL.
Since the launch in June 2021, The Climate Connection programme enabled the British Council to reach almost two million people online and directly engaged with over 2,000 young people to date. These include indigenous communities, creatives, academics and scientists seeking long-lasting, innovative ways to tackle multiple issues relating to the climate crisis.
Scott McDonald, British Council Chief Executive, said: ‘Young people have a huge role to play in shaping future climate change policy and the British Council is committed to including their voices in the climate discussion at COP26 and beyond. Through initiatives such as our Climate Connection programme, we are building on UK expertise to support them to gain the skills, experience, and connections they need to make positive change at local, national, and international levels. Connecting and building trust between the UK and countries, communities, and generations – and empowering young people globally to make that happen – is at the heart of the British Council’s approach.’
During COP26, the British Council is also supporting a number of partner-led events on-site, while simultaneously engaging global audiences through a range of online offers – from a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for English teachers who want to integrate climate themes into their teaching, to a Live at COP26 MOOC run in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, to the launch of another edition of the Destination Zero climate innovation challenge competition.
British Council initiatives being showcased during COP26 include:
- Songs of the Earth – a performance by Soumit Datta, one of 17 Creative Commissions bringing together people from the UK and 28 countries to explore climate change through art, science, and digital technology.
- Fashion Open Studio x COP26 showcasing 9 young designers from the globe.
- Green Careers Fair at COY16 and a Green Careers Guide supporting young people to build successful careers that help the planet through advice on education opportunities and routes into green jobs.
- 26 GREAT Scholarships for a sustainable future, delivered by the British Council as part of the Study UK campaign, which have been provided to overseas students to pursue a climate-related subject at UK universities.
- The Climate Connection Higher Education and Cultural Policy Roundtable Series, exploring the multiple roles the higher education and culture sectors play in combatting the climate crisis.
- The Cultural Protection Fund, a partnership between British Council and the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, has awarded funding to five global heritage projects, which will use technology, skills development, and community engagement to respond to the risk of climate change to heritage in East Africa.
- A global MOOC ‘Climate Action in Language Education’ for English teachers building capacity in how to integrate climate-themed issues into English language teaching.