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Teaching activity

COP28 Teaching Activities: Three Carbon News Stories and How to Use Them

Alice Griffiths

14th November 2023

Three recent news stories about the carbon budget and climate have caught my eye. Spoiler-alert: one story features a Pacific 'island paradise'. All are useful hooks to promote students' understanding of links within the A-level course. To that end, I’ve written a few questions to prompt class discussion ahead of COP28, alongside links to the stories. Grab the free 'Ahead of COP28' A-Level Activities download at the bottom of this page.

Aerial view of Funafuti airstrip, Tuvalu: Australia plans to invest in climate adaptation measures

UN interest in UK climate policy

The first story of interest is the UN’s threat to take to task the UK over its ‘backsliding’ on climate commitments. On Friday 3 November the Guardian reported that the UN secretary general would be seeking assurance from the UK that it plans to stick to its policies to address climate change. Deputy secretary general of the intergovernmental organisation (IGO), Amina Mohammed expressed concern about UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s revision of green policies, widely seen as wavering on the country’s net zero project, because as she said ‘there is a lot of it about’.

Students might read the article. Then ask your class:

  1. Why does the UN care about UK plans to postpone the phase out of petrol driven cars and gas boilers?

  2. What is the link between spatial scales discussed in this article?

  3. How might an IGO best influence national policy?

China's emissions to peak in 2023?

By contrast, the Carbon Brief website this week suggested that China’s CO2 emissions could peak in 2023. This climate science story, also in the Guardian, provides us all with a welcome fillip in a time of terrible news stories. For that reason alone, might it be worth sharing with your students?

Ask:

  1. What happened to fossil fuel demand in China in 2023 and why?

  2. What other developments have occurred mitigating this, at an unexpected scale ?

  3. What are the implications of these changes in China? Hint: Consider the global systems topic.

Australia to become home for Tuvalu's climate refugees

Who can forget the iconic image of Tuvalu minister Simon Kofe's address to COP26 knee-deep in water? My third carbon story moves this image of a distant place in peril on a bit. At the conclusion of last week's Pacific nations summit, the story that Australia will offer residency to climate refugees from low-lying nation Tuvalu, forced out by the effects of sea level rise, trickled out. The deal, which deserves more airtime in the UK media, offers permanent residency to 280 people a year, with Australia investing in climate adaptation projects in tandem, to help Tuvalu's citizens ‘stay in their homes with safety and dignity’ where possible.

This is of particular interest at a time when the UK’s Rwanda plan for the processing of asylum seekers is under scrutiny in the UK courts, a policy turn inspired by Australia’s historic migration policies. In the past, Australia used third countries Nauru and Papua New Guinea to process asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat but such policies have been criticised by many including NGO Amnesty International given the terrible human rights record of these detention centres as well as huge delays in processing applications.

There are wider, regional geopolitical implications of Tuvalu’s new climate deal as it comes with significant security ties binding it to Australia.

EU commentators have been quick to spot even wider (global) implications of Australia’s new approach. Germany’s climate envoy Jennifer Morgan said the deal showed ‘what’s at stake’ and that all countries have to scale up their ambitions for 2030’ which takes us neatly back to Rishi’s flip-flop in the UK, not unnoticed on the world stage. With coal remaining a key export for Australia (the country was the world’s second largest exporter of coal in 2019), might Australia also need to go further to clean up its economy if it wants to host the 2026 COP, perhaps?

So, a great, multi-faceted 'link story' to exploit. It knits together global systems, with the global governance topic, migration (if you’re doing Population and the environment topic) and climate change mitigation.

Ask:

  1. What has been agreed between Australia and Tuvalu?
  2. Why do you think Australia has extended this offer now?
  3. How are changes in the carbon cycle influencing geopolitics?

Additional links to catch students up:

  • AT COP26, countries gave an undertaking phase down (not phase out) fossil fuels, as reported by the BBC
  • Watch this short but impactful film of Tuvalu minister Simon Kofe addressing cop26 knee-deep in water (film by New Scientist magazine).
  • A useful explainer on the UK’s Rwanda plan for asylum seekers by the BBC.

Download the 'Ahead of COP28 A-Level Activities Pack'

Alice Griffiths

Alice has taught Geography over a period of twenty years. She is a published author and editor of a wide range of A level resources and has also created award-winning, online content for younger students. An occasional presenter at the GA’s annual conference, she was head of department at an 11-18 school until 2020.

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