Young Civic Engagement with Climate Change: developing research-practice partnerships between Scotland and Chile

With the COP25 climate summit in Santiago, Chile being cancelled and Glasgow hosting COP26 in November, the Network for Social and Educational Equity (NSEE) and Children’s Neighbourhood Scotland (CNS) have teamed up with the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso (PUCV), and with schools in Scotland and Chile to amplify Children’s voices in the climate change discussion. This international dialogue between the student’s aims represents continuity and engenders the sort of transnational cooperation needed to tackle climate change. 

Young people’s perspectives are underrepresented and sorely needed in environmental discussions. Whilst the negative impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately on the young, most of the perspectives considered in the policymaking space are those of adults (Lee et al., 2020). Hence, there are widespread calls for additional academic research into engagement with children’s environmental concerns across both developing and developed countries (Sanson et al., 2019).  

The demand to be heard has not gone unnoticed: children and young people engaged in climate strikes throughout COP21 in Paris, COP24 in Poland, and overwhelmingly dominated the half a million protestors at the most recent COP25 summit (Lee et al., 2020; Chandramouli, 2019). As a result, there is special focus on ensuring that young people’s voices are elevated in the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow (Barford et al., 2021).  

This Scotland-Chile collaboration seeks to address this gap, and serves as a framework for research and development with young people from both the global North and South to articulate their concerns about climate change and reflect on what behaviours are necessary. This is especially salient given the recent passing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) by the Scottish Parliament, which requires new mechanisms for amplifying children’s voices in policy spaces (Policy Scotland, 2021); this will be especially profound for climate-related discussions (Arts, 2019). The project also brings together university staff and schoolteachers from Chile and Scotland to discuss the pedagogical approaches and tools that will bring climate issues closer to the curriculum while strengthening students’ voice and action. 

In addition to promoting student voice and agency, a further objective is to promote knowledge exchange between the teaching teams in Chile and Scotland. This will be facilitated by documenting the process in each country, which will focus on developing tools and materials and youth-led projects to make a difference. 

The project will utilise Children Neighbourhood Scotland’s ‘Children’s Voices’ research model, and apply it to the climate concerns of almost 160 children in both Glasgow (St. Peter’s High School; St. Eunan’s Primary School), and Chile (Escuela Luis Cruz Martinez). This approach follows the framework of a ‘Research-Practice Partnership’, entailing cooperative weekly/biweekly sessions, during which the young people engage with teachers and researchers to define climate change, explore the issues and communicate their findings and wellbeing concerns.  

The project will culminate in an exhibit and screened event at COP26 in the University of Glasgow, allowing the young people to present their learning and experiences, either in-person (Glasgow) or virtually (Chile).  



Barford, Anna. Mugeere, Anthony. Proefke, Rachel. And Stocking, Barbara. (2021). “Young People and Climate Change.” The British Academy. Available at: [Accessed 28 July 2021]. 

Chandramouli, Kartik. (2019). “Youth rising at COP25: They came, they protested, they negotiated.” Mongabay. Available at: [Accessed 28 July 2021]. 

Karin Arts. (2019). ‘Children’s Rights and Climate Change’, in Claire Fenton-Lynn (ed.), Children’s Rights and Sustainable Development: Interpreting the UNCRC for Future Generations, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, 2019, chapter 10, pp. 216-235.  

Lee, Katharine. Gjersoe, Nathalia. O’Neill, Saffron. And Barnett, Julie. (2020). “Youth perceptions of climate change: A narrative synthesis.” WIREs Climate Change 11(3): e641. Available at: [Accessed 28 July 2021].

Policy Scotland. (2021). “Hearing Children’s Voices in Policymaking: Lessons for the new Scottish Government Policy Roundtable.” Policy Scotland. Available at: [Accessed 28 July 2021]. 

Sanson, Ann V. Van Hoorn, Judith. And Burke, Susie E.L. (2019). “Responding to the Impacts of the Climate Crisis on Children and Youth.” Child Development Perspectives 13(4): 201-207. Available at: DOI: 10.1111/cdep.12342. [Accessed 28 July 2021].  

First published: 30 August 2021

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