Summer School 2009

Summer School 2009, University of Queensland, Australia.

The Universitas 21 Summer School 2009 was hosted by The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. The two-week event was held from July 13 to July 24, 2009 and covered one of the most important global issues of our times: Climate Change Adaptation.

This event offered the opportunity for like-minded peers to address difficult climate change issues and possible adaptation strategies and solutions through lectures, workshops, field trips, debates and discussions.

The U21 Summer School 2009 brought together 107 undergraduate students and academics from 17 U21 universities in 14 different countries (the highest number of participants of all previous Summer Schools), drawn from various discipline areas and backgrounds.

The academic programme of the Summer School was comprehensive and explored the key issues of Climate Change Adaptation through a wide range of lectures, presentations, discussions, workshops, skills sessions, field trips, creative and social activities. The programme was designed to provide delegates with insights into predicted changes and impacts, the mechanisms needed to respond, our current level of readiness and our capacity to adapt at national and global levels. It was a great opportunity for participants to engage in discussions with international Climate Change experts and academics from various backgrounds.

The first week focused on predicted changes and impacts of Climate Change and the second week focused on planning responses at a regional, national and global scale. The programme developed from an Australian focus to a global and regional focus and emphasised high levels of interaction and creative activities as well as information delivery. The core of the academic programme was built around two major group-work tasks, one in each week. The first, a ‘Speak-out’ task was a team-based activity embracing the main Climate Change challenges discussed in the first week. The second, a UN-style Assembly - the summit of the Summer School programme - focused on proposals for a global response to Climate Change.

One aim on the first day of the seminar was to build a collage of the challenges facing U21 countries from Climate Change impacts (heating, drying, flooding, fires, severe storms and surge, sea level rise). For this purpose, each university group was asked to give a four minute presentation (with a maximum of four slides) about the major Climate Change Adaptation challenge faced by their country or world region. All members of the group were invited to stand up and represent their university. The delegates needed to prepare this task before they came to the Summer School and this format proved extremely effective in allowing participants an early opportunity to contribute to, and hence feel part of, the programme. The “Speak-out” task challenged delegates to think creatively about how to present possible good news or bad news aspects of Climate Change impacts in 2030 engagingly, using a media product (e.g. press release, newspaper front page, web page, cartoon, announcement, advertisement etc). They were required to work in groups with students from other universities to produce a media item, in poster format, for a “Speak-out”, gallery-style exhibition.

Participants had several hours in the first week to prepare this task (which was introduced on the first day) and the material used was poster paper and felt pens. The task was run on the last day of the first week (Friday, July 17).  Certificates were given to the most passionate, most practical, most persuasive and most provocative campaign designs.

To conclude the Summer School, a UN style assembly was held on Friday 24 July, in which the delegates formed 17 small groups, representing various world regions or special interests. Each of these groups identified the major climate changes issues affecting their region or special interest, and proposed a series of policy solutions. Delegates then voted on the most important and a designated secretariat (also made up of student delegates) formed these views into a formal ‘Charter’ setting out a set of national and international level actions which had collective endorsement. The Charter was presented to the Queensland Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, The Hon Kate Jones, and to Senior Executives from the University of Queensland.