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UAE students and a teacher are among the finalists for Global Climate Change Competition ahead of COP28 in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: In a global competition for students and educators that saw hundreds of entries from 43 countries, a five-member student team from GEMS Our Own English High School, Dubai, is among the finalists in the student category. An educator from Cambridge High School, Abu Dhabi, is a top contender in the teacher category.

The young people and teachers, whose ideas have been shortlisted as part of The Burjeel Holdings-Oxford Saïd Climate Change Challenge, have now been invited to present their solutions to judges in Abu Dhabi. The winners will be declared at a ceremony at COP28 on December 2 in Dubai. They will win a place to study climate change at the University of Oxford.

From piezoelectric crystals and artificial intelligence to entomopathogenic fungi and heterotrophs, the student finalists have embraced innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges brought about by climate change.

The finalists distinguished themselves among submissions, demonstrating the passion felt by students and teachers globally, determined to tackle the world’s most pressing issue.

This makes it one of the biggest global competitions to help tackle the climate crisis, specifically targeting this 500-million high school student and teacher community. The entries were reviewed by a judging panel made up of influential thought leaders, founders, CEOs and global entrepreneurs.

UAE finalists

“We all met by chance outside our supervisors’ office, found out about the challenge and happened to have shared interests. Some students can’t go to school because of air pollution, and all of us have experienced its impact on our lives. Also, one in eight households experience food insecurity, that’s what inspired us to get involved,” said team ECO₂ – Gayathri, Trisha, Unnimaya, Elvina and Nischala from GEMS Our Own English School, Dubai.

Teacher entries to the Climate Change Challenge were received from an equally diverse set of locations. The lesson plans put forward reflect a high quality of teaching about climate change and strong desire to imbue their students with a sense of purpose, in having a positive impact on the Earth’s future.

The teacher finalist from Abu Dhabi is Frithi Francis from Cambridge High School.

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Catalyst for solutions

Professor Soumitra Dutta, Dean of Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, said, “The diverse range of applications from more than 40 countries, including entries from refugee camps, highlights the intense interest among school students and educators in tackling climate change. It also reaffirms the competition’s role as a catalyst for driving innovative solutions and giving young people agency in tackling the greatest challenge of our age. We should all be inspired by the finalists’ entries, and I look forward to the culmination of this challenge on stage at COP28.”

Juliane Reinecke, Professor of Management Studies, Oxford Saïd, will be a judge at the finals and is the academic lead for the climate change course the winners will be invited to attend at the School in Oxford next year. “What sets this competition apart is how it empowers young people who understand the harsh reality of climate-related challenges. Notably, the competition’s entries emphasize the importance of local community-driven solutions. I’m so encouraged by the quality of solutions put forward and cannot wait to meet the young people and teachers who came up with them,” she added.

The challenge will culminate in a Climate Change Symposium: Champions of Change Panel at COP28.