Glasgow pupil brings hot stuff to climate conference

1st January 2010 at 00:00

It was the ultimate "eco-group": 164 young people gathered in Copenhagen to decide what should be done about climate change, before the likes of Barack Obama and Gordon Brown had even set foot in the Danish capital.

Among them was a single Scottish delegate, 14-year-old Graeme McGhee. The S3 pupil at Glasgow's Hillpark Secondary won a Unicef competition he had spotted on YouTube, impressing judges with an essay about climate change.

Young people from 44 countries, aged 14-17, travelled to the week-long Children's Climate Change Forum. Graeme made up the UK delegation with three pupils from England.

One of the most memorable friendships he struck up was with a 15-year-old from the Maldives. Mohammed Axam Maunoon had already seen islands he knew as a young boy disappear under water, and his stories made Graeme even more determined to do something about rising temperatures.

Graeme, also a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, played a sizeable role at the conference. He explored courses of financial action and presented a video outlining the delegates' views.

Most impressively, he contributed two of the 10 concluding points of declaration, which were whittled down from a starting list of several dozen.

"The whole experience has really changed my life," he said. "It's probably the best thing I've ever done. It gets you motivated to do stuff when you hear other people's stories."

He is more ambivalent about what happened after the young people left earlier this month and world leaders arrived for the United Nations climate change conference. (Eight young people from the most vulnerable countries, including Mohammed, stayed on to present their views.)

There was harmony and consensus at the youth forum. Graeme recalls sessions without a single argument, and wishes the main event had panned out that way.

Although he concedes the deal hammered out is "a start", he made clear: "I don't think it's good enough because they've not actually made laws saying, 'This has to be done.'"

Janice Browning, a drama teacher who helped Graeme and other pupils start Hillpark Secondary's eco-group, Earth Power, said he was "one of the most enterprising young lads I've ever taught".

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