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Carbon emissions debate hots up

SECONDARY PUPILS throughout the Highlands and Islands are battling it out in the Big Green Challenge - a debating competition focusing on the future of renewable energy.

Thirty-seven teams from 23 schools have taken part in local heats tackling a motion which asks whether renewable energy is the best way to cut carbon emissions. The competition is organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the region's development agency.

The regional finals were held at the end of May, and the final will take place at the Centre for Health Science in Inverness on June 19.

The competition is open to teams of three in S1-3 and the winners will jet off to Navarre in Northern Spain, a region gaining an international reputation for its expertise on renewables. It has a population of 530,000, similar to the Highlands and Islands, and draws 61 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources. The runners-up will visit the Eden Project in Cornwall.

"This is a chance for young people to have their say in what is almost certainly going to be one of the biggest issues which will affect them and their environment during the course of their lives," says Kate McKinley, project manager for the challenge. "It is designed to be educational, to get them to research information that will affect how they run their lives.

It's also about developing public-speaking skills, building confidence and learning how to structure an argument.

"This region has such a wealth of natural resources that the area has the potential to become a centre of excellence for renewable energy. So it follows that we look at how this fits into the curriculum."

Teachers at Fortrose Academy on the Black Isle had to draw names out of a hat to select team members, because of the high interest. The debaters have been subjected to relentless questioning from their peers, who make up the audiences.

The Scottish Executive is represented on the steering group for the information campaign on renewables underway in the Highlands and Islands.

If successful, there's a chance the Big Green Challenge could spread to schools all over Scotland next session.

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