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Young People Tackling the Climate Emergency
AWARD
City/Region : Barcelona , Spain

The goals of this initiative are 1) to bring science to young people (students between ages 11 and 18) through a process of scientific research to be conducted in participating schools, 2) create a space for dialogue and reflection for the students taking part and a panel of scientists specialising in various topics related to the climate emergency and 3) get young people to commit to thinking of and carrying out initiatives, inside and/or outside school hours, that will help reverse the climate emergency.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
Climate actionSustainable mobilityBiodiversity
Eliminating pollution
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
Context
Workshop and presentation of the proposals to scientists for their assessment

Barcelona signed the Climate Emergency Declaration on 15 January 2020, which is specified in its Climate Emergency Plan for 2030. It was in this context that the “Young people tackling the Climate Emergency” initiative was created. The importance of being able to tackle the climate emergency from several areas, including responsible consumption, mobility and urban greenery, has become much clearer since that time. It was in February 2021 that this specific space for young people was launched, in addition to the spaces offered by the various associations, enterprises and organisations showing their concern for the situation and an interest in taking action. It represents an opportunity to bring together the scientific community that carries out research in this area and Barcelona’s young people. It gives visibility to this interesting interaction between two worlds which may sometimes seem distant, but whose interaction is increasingly understood as necessary and enriching.

In Action
Scientific days for the climate

The project’s methodology is based on the following points:

  • Analysis and prioritisation of issues relating to climate change.
  • Search for leading scientists in each subject area, with communication skills and who are able to adapt the material for younger audiences.
  • Presentation of the educational proposal to teachers for its incorporation into their annual programmes.
  • Initial meeting between scientists and students, which serves as a means for students to find out about research on climate change that is being carried out by scientists, delving deeply into scientific methods and setting out the first hypotheses made by students.
  • After this meeting, research will begin, and be developed, in the classroom on some specific aspect of the climate emergency in Barcelona. Some 4-5 specific issues are proposed for each school year.
  • Second meeting between scientists and students for presenting the conclusions of the research, reflecting, exchanging ideas and clearing up any queries.
  • Third meeting between a smaller group of representatives from the various schools for preparing a manifesto together aimed at the scientific community and institutions.
  • Defining and detailing transformational initiatives to improve the current climate emergency.

Once the question(s) have been decided for starting the research, the work will consist of four stages:

1. Hypothesis: Based on the question(s) chosen, a possible response (hypothesis) needs to be proposed and tested later with the scientific method.

2. Research method: A method needs to be defined for testing out the hypothesis based on research and gathering key data in the city of Barcelona.

3. Results obtained: Interpreting the data collected in accordance with the initial hypothesis.

4. Conclusions: Summary of the research process’s most notable aspects, both from the perspective of the methodology used and from the results obtained.

Once the research work has finished, and on the basis of the results obtained, young people take action and are central to the city’s transformation.

Example of transformative action: https://gruptersa-my.sharepoint.com/:v:/g/personal/bcnsostenible_siresa_cat/Ebj1lydcRxxPmQa86NUrD-IBNMtwmbPNSnA_48c1yM05Sg?e=qxAO4m

Quote from the City Councilor for Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition:

"Under this proposal, Barcelona’s youth are taking notice of problems relating to the Climate Emergency through experts in the scientific world and empowering themselves in the city’s transformation. This is an opportunity for young people to realise their impact as city residents and see the changes resulting from their initiatives and participation".

Video of the project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pflCSLBOnzg&t=18s

Integration

Barcelona signed the Climate Emergency Declaration on 15 January 2020, which is specified in its Climate Emergency Plan for 2030. It was in this context that the “Young people tackling the Climate Emergency” initiative was created. It was in February 2021 that this specific space for young people was launched, in addition to the spaces offered by the various associations, enterprises and organisations showing their concern for the situation and an interest in taking action. It is an opportunity to give visibility to this interesting interaction between young people and scientists, whose interaction is increasingly understood as necessary and enriching. Students carry out research accompanied by experts, who provide the necessary support and vision for this specific issue, bearing in mind relevant environmental, social and economic aspects.

The issues to be worked on are as follows:

  • Food and climate
  • Health and climate
  • Public space and climate
  • Sustainability culture vs eco-anxiety
  • Waste and circular economy
  • Responsible consumption: clothes and fashion
  • Responsible consumption: data and electronic devices
  • Mobility and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Urban greenery

This is work that was carried out during a large part of the school year and which partly builds on advice from scientific experts on climate change and also from the work of teachers and experts involved in the More Sustainable Schools programme, such as guides and leaders of the various parts of the project, day events and work meetings. In addition, it is based on a participatory process where students debate, prioritise and decide on joint solutions to provide a real and effective answer to the current challenges.

Results
Work session with teachers and coordinators of the initiative

The last two editions of “Young people tackling the Climate Emergency” saw collaboration with as many as 32 schools and over 1,200 students who were able to carry out their own science research relating to a chosen subject. Besides enjoying contact with the scientific community, students were also able to share their results, queries and joint concerns. The event saw proposals for transforming school playgrounds, analyses and suggestions for improving mobility and reflections on clothes consumption, among other issues.

Based on its feedback forms, more than 88% of the schools taking part in “Young People tackling the Climate Emergency” rated the initiative positively. Close to 82% stated they would take part in it again and more than 90% would advise other schools to join the project.

“I feel encouraged to do more things. I've seen a lot of talent in schools.”

Federica Massa, EADA Business School and the Sustainable Fashion Association

“The project was a complete challenge! Personally, I’m really happy that young people are so involved.”

Laura Talens, from the Sostenipra Group at ICTA-UAB

Impact

A dossier has been put together containing the results of the research carried out at each participating centre.

As soon as young people are aware of specific problems relating to the climate emergency, they connect to them and draw conclusions, through scientific research. This is the starting point for thinking about and seeking solutions. For example, one of the groups from a participating school reached the conclusion that putting a roundabout at the junction between two nearby streets, improving the synchronisation of traffic lights and launching a campaign for promoting the use of public transport could drastically reduce pollution in the area.

Another example comes from a school that conducted research into the consumption model of electronic devices and drafted two proposals: to offer information to students on enterprises that manufacture environmentally-friendly devices and to create a collection and information point for students to leave their defunct devices so they can be returned to the manufacturer and taken to municipal waste dumps.

The budget for the coming school year will be the same as those of the previous years: about 10,451 US Dollars.

The project is contributing mainly to SDG 4, as it works to bringing environmental awareness to students at Barcelona’s schools, thereby helping to improve their skills, critical-thinking and teamwork. It is also contributing to SDG 11 as proposals and solutions have a direct impact on generating a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly city, and is related to some others SDGs as well.

Challenges and lessons learned
Work session between students/teachers and the scientists

Following the successful participation and good ratings from the schools, the proposal will be continued next year, with a few aspects changed:

First of all, it will focus on people aged 14 to 18 because children from the 11-13 year-old age bracket have other similar pedagogical proposals and because the largest participating group was students aged 16-18 years, so the levels of research and discourse are different.

Finally, the calendar of the project will be adapted to better fit with the participating schools.

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Contact

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
European Secretariat

Leopoldring 3
79098 Freiburg
Germany

Tel.: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 0
Fax: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 19

E-mail: info@sustainablecities.eu
Website: www.sustainablecities.eu

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