school projects

Suggestions for writing a letter to Australia’s representative at United Nations climate talks

Dear Julie Bishop,
My name is Fiona and I am an average 11 year old student. … I believe Australia can make a difference. I may not have 40 years of experience but I do have hope and persistence and you have a country who believes in you and all of the members of the parliament. … So please help this goal of mine become yours too because we can make a difference for Australia, we can. (extract from a letter written to Julie Bishop)

An authentic act of citizenship: writing to an influential politician

The Hon Julie Bishop MP is Australia’s lead negotiator at the UN climate talks this year, ending at the Conference of the Parties 21 meeting in Paris. What should she do? What is best for Australia – for our environment, our economy, our society?

Should we join with other major nations to make strong commitments to reduce the fossil fuel emissions that drive up global warming? Should we act to stop the climate change which is threatening our agricultural production, our coastal communities, our health and well-being?

Or should Australia plead a ‘special case’: we rely on coal exports in our economy or we only contribute 1% of the world’s global warming anyway? On the other hand, Australia will be hit harder than the rest of the world by climate change

Australia and many other nations have announced their targets to be discussed at the Paris meeting. This is how we compare with other industrialised nations.

The first column shows the change in total emissions achieved by each country’s emission reduction target. On that basis, Australia is in the middle somewhere.

The second and third columns show that Australia will have the highest emissions per person at the end of the period and the highest emissions per unit of economic output.  This is because Australia has started with much higher per capita emissions than most other industrialised countries so we also end high.


Here is an overview of different countries’ targets:  ComparingINDCs

Decide what position Australia should take.

Decide how to persuade our lead negotiator to take that position and write her a letter.

Show your letter to an adult in your life and ask for their feedback. Edit your letter if you agree with the feedback.

Send the letter to:

The Hon Julie Bishop MP,

PO Box 2010,

Subiaco, WA, 6904

 Some primary school students have already written letters to Julie Bishop: letters from students

60% of Australia want us to become a leader in climate solutions and I am on of those 60% (Nic)

Some secondary school students have sent emails to Julie Bishop. Read the emails from Year 10 PLC students

After studying this subject we have come to the realization that Climate Change is a serious global issue that must be addressed immediately. We, the future generation, will be impacted by Climate Change the most and we feel that you need to represent us well and our future at the UN Climate Change talk (Bella, Mia, Lauren, Rieley, Miah, Jordyn, Stella, Lilly, Sophie, Chloe, Wen, Kathie, Angelica, Tatjana, Angie, Maddie, Kelsey, Maisie, Millie, Hannah, Natalie, Ailee, Ari, Wieneke). 

As you embark on your journey to Paris, know that we are with you to help change the world to combat climate change (Isabel, Hannah, Olivia, Jamie and Jane Year 10 students of Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Peppermint Grove WA). 

Presbyterian Ladies College have since held a PLC to Paris Climate Change Forum for Year 10 students. Student designed and led workshops on what young people wanted Julie Bishop to say on their behalf at the United Nations climate talks in December produced thoughtful and hopeful responses, including

The federal government placing more weight and support on the issue and recognising its severity
• Specific goals to reduce carbon emissions, rather than simply discussion, reflecting research that a 40% carbon reduction would steer us towards a safer climate
• Goals outlined simply for the average person to understand to personally involve us
• The public and their sentiments being considered while these goals are set
• Australia setting an example for other countries to follow, so that we may increase participation globally 
• The nation and especially you, Hon. Julie Bishop, taking a stand and being decisive about leading the world
• Australia helping developing nations in terms of economic and social liabilities 
Finally, as the representative for Australia at the Paris Climate Talks, the youth ask that you keep in mind our request to consider the future, and the people will be our future. As our representative, it is your task to set the example for other nations and achieve realistic yet ambitious goals for emission reduction. We request that you be a leader in negotiating for international cooperation on the issue, while putting pressure on high emitting nations to implement measures that will create a more sustainable future.
Hon. Julie Bishop, many students referred to you as a role model, an inspiration, and even their preferred option for Prime Minister. They place their faith in you to take a moment to listen and consider them, and to fight for long-term sustainable solutions. Please use your influence in your electorate, ministerial position, federal parliament, and on the international stage to assist us in leading the way. Generation “Me” wants to change its title. Tell us what to do, and we will do it. Because we want to.


Phoebe Metcalf, Danielle Tan, and students of Presbyterian Ladies’ College


What persuades someone  – facts or values?

The evidence suggests that we are moved more by the things we care about (our values), than the facts, the truth or evidence.

97% of scientists agree that global warming is occurring and it is caused by humans. The chart below was made famous by Al Gore in his film An Inconvenient Truth.  It shows rapidly rising fossil fuel emissions since the Industrial Revolution began several hundred years ago and the world increasingly replaced horse and human power with coal and oil fired energy.  We also use more coal, oil and gas as the world population increases, for example in China and India, and our standard of living rises rapidly, for example in Australia, USA, and Europe.  In recent decades the standard of living has also been rising in China, India, parts of Africa and South America.

All this means rapidly increasing fossil fuel emissions, captured in our atmosphere and causing extreme climate events, such as storms, floods, droughts and heat waves.


These graphs from NASA [10] show the correlation between a rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (top chart) and the rise in global temperature (bottom chart). Source: Vaille Dawson and Katherine Carson:



• SAVE THE PLANET: We have to take decisive action:  If we carry on as usual the world will be on the path to exceed dangerous 2 degrees global warming by 2030-2035. The independent Climate Change Authority recommends that Australia reduce emissions by 40-60 per cent below 2000 levels in 2030, and 30-40 per cent reductions in 2025.

• SAVE OUR ECONOMY: Moving to clean renewable energy is the only way to save our economy.  Staying with coal will cost our economy and jobs in the short term and long term.
o Our trading partners are turning away from fossil fuels;
o renewable energy sources are now competitive with fossil fuel sources;
o there are many more jobs in renewable energy than in coal and unconventional gas mining.
o Burning fossil fuel is leaching our Great Barrier Reef and destroying other tourist spots
o ever-more devastating floods, cyclones, droughts and fires are reducing our agricultural production and costing us millions in repairing the damage
o unconventional gas mining will exhaust our limited underground water supplies and contaminate our farmland, air and water

• SAVE OUR HEALTH people are dying from heat waves – deaths from global warming will rise and illnesses from the pollutants of dirty fossil fuel burning will also increase

• THE WORLD WANTS THIS: Australia is out of step in its refusal to make a clear commitment to the clean energy alternative. The major emitters have made commitments: USA, European Union, China. The Pope will release an encyclical on the issue in June. Even the Canadian PM is considering a tax on carbon.

See CASE’s summary of the fossil fuels versus renewable energy paths to the future: CASE – signposts on the road to Paris and beyond v3


Things we love and want to preserve – the environment, animals and trees in it; our families; our communities; our futures.

The kind of society we want to live in – where people are safe and secure rather than afraid because of increasing water and food scarcity.

The relationship we want between people and their elected politicians – based on mutual respect, trust and listening to each other.

Preserving democracy and doing what people want: 60% of Australians want the Australian government to take the lead on climate change; 3 million or 20 per cent of Australian households use solar energy; even 70% of Coalition voters support retention of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which assists the move to renewable energy.

 BACKGROUND – The road to Paris
From 30 November to 11 December 2015, Paris will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21 (Conference of the Parties 21, i.e parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC). The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

The biggest polluters, China, the USA and the European Union have made commitments to greenhouse gas emissions reduction:
• China has agreed to cap its output by 2030 or earlier and to increase its zero-emission sourced energy to 20%.
• The United States has pledged to cut its emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
• The European Union has pledged 40% emissions reduction target by 2030 and has increased its renewable energy target to 27 per cent.

So far Australia has not made a clear commitment to join with other major nations in significant reductions in fossil fuel emissions.  The government’s Issues Paper accepts that global warming has happened and is costly for Australia but makes a special case that the rest of the world should seize the opportunities offered by renewable energy but Australia should stick with ‘so yesterday’ fossil fuels:  Issues_Paper_greenhouse_gas_128MarchDPMC

This is the submission made by CASE: COP21submissionreissuespaper

For more information about the process and the prospects of renewable energy: CASE – signposts on the road to Paris and beyond v3

Here is a link to Climate Change and the Greenhouse Effect by Vaille Dawson and Katherine Carson, developed for the WA school curriculum

Here is a link to some lesson plans proposed by the Climate Reality Project

Here is a link to what is happening globally in preparation for the UN climate talks

Here is a link to see how Australia’s climate will change with different levels of global warming

And for some fun with First Dog on the Moon

and some more fun with John Oliver – visual demonstration of 97% of scientists agree that climate change is occurring

Websites for more and extensive information:

Climate Change Authority

Climate Institute

Debunking the science denialists’ myths

Sustainable Development Solutions Network – an online course

Two books, one by Naomi Klein This Changes Everything and another by George Marshall Don’t Even Think About it