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Carbon Literacy in the EU

January 2017 by Emma Richards

Photo by Vladislav Klapin on Unsplash

For some time, we’ve wanted to expand The Carbon Literacy Project beyond the confines of the UK. This is –

Because Carbon Dioxide does not recognise boundaries in the damage that it does to our climate,

our project would have been a failure had it only succeeded in Manchester.”

– Dr Ali Abbas, Chair, The Carbon Literacy Trust

So, when in November 2015, we were chosen as one of 100 global Transformative Action Programme projects for COP21, the UN Climate Negotiations in Paris, last November, we knew this could be our springboard into mainland Europe. And so it has proven!

Just over a year on we’re back from Toulouse in southern France, having (successfully) developed the first ever international Carbon Literacy Project at INP-ENSEEIHT – one of France’s prestigious top-tier grandes écoles, the top level of technical university, an organisation we first had the pleasure to meet at… COP21.

We worked extensively with a team from Manchester Metropolitan University, lead by Jane Mӧrk, who developed the materials for what seemed like a seamless expansion to Toulouse.

The course of events included:

  • Daily Train-the-Trainer workshops, led by Jane, which comprised of: An Intro to CL; Essential Facilitator Skills; Dealing with Difficult Behaviour; and an Assessment, delivered for six of INP-ENSEEIHT’s Green Team students.
  • Carbon Literacy training consisting of – The basic science behind climate change; social equity & climate change; What you can do to act on climate change; and strategies and skills for communicating action on climate change. This was delivered by two certified Carbon Literacy Trainers; Helen Casey and Emma Charlotte Richards, both students at/from MMU to approximately 60 of INP-ENSEEIHT’s students.
  • A program of seven presentations by Carbon Literacy Project Co-Director, Phil Korbel, to a combination of almost 350 students, university staff, delegates from sister university schools of ENSEEIHT; as well as the occasional small child dragged along by their parents feeling the projects’ message too important to miss.

The reaction to our message was absolutely outstanding. This was particularly the case with the highly enthused and fantastic ENSEEIHT staff members, particularly Alex, Emma and Claire from the Soft Skills Centre. Throughout the trip, the students from ENSEEIHT, particularly in their persistent questioning, challenged and helped develop their (and our!) understanding of Carbon Literacy. And we imagine, from the amazing new student trainers, who got completely on board with the Project; we will be seeing more great things.

Though for the moment, the idea of moving to a vegetarian diet to reduce personal carbon emissions was met with shocked expressions and utter bemusement by most of the French we met (Quel Horreur!), without a doubt something really special has started in Toulouse.

Looking to the future, there are obvious opportunities both for INP-ENSEEIHT and Carbon Literacy within Toulouse, including the expansion of CL to the INP sister schools, and the translation of materials to open up the project to a global market.

In the meantime, it’ll be exciting to see how the course material is further adapted to a French audience, as the student trainers deliver CL themselves to gain certification as Carbon Literacy Trainers. And the willingness to embed Carbon Literacy within the curriculum is a really positive step towards Education for Sustainable Development, (ESD), yet to be implemented here in Manchester.

Overall, the whole experience has been highly enjoyable, and the prospect of future opportunities within Toulouse, as a result of the trip, are tantalising. In light of the potential for the UK to leave Europe, the relationship we’ve developed is all the more important, directly addressing our shared responsibility for a changing climate, and helping to build a global low carbon culture. We look forward to the possibilities this partnership will bring.

On y va!


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