Costing the world

An Oxford High School student brought together schools and academies from across the country for a virtual conference on ‘The Economy v The Environment’

A student at Oxford High School organised a highly successful virtual conference on the economy and the environment that brought together pupils from both the GDST and other UK schools.

25 schools dialled into the event from across the UK

Emma Bradshaw, aged 16, decided to organise the event, which involved 25 schools and ten leading experts, after this year’s national economics conference for students was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is the first time Emma, who wants to study land economy at Cambridge University, had organised anything of this kind but she was determined that coronavirus does not impact the fight against climate change.

gdst event

It is a subject particularly close to her heart; Emma grew up in Beijing, coming to the UK in 2014.

She said: “My generation has grown up amidst the great environment vs. economy debate and I grew up witnessing industrialisation first-hand.

“I had to wear a pollution mask every day on the way to school and I’d have to check whether it was even safe to go outside.”

She added: “This is a critical time for all of us and I would like to take a leading role in addressing the issues that we have inherited.

“It would be easy to do nothing, but the environment is too important to be ignored.” 

Emma introduced the day of talks herself, which started with a video from Prof Dieter Helm, Professor of Economic Policy at Oxford University, who posed some thought-provoking questions for students such as, ‘Can you be part of an Extinction Rebellion protest and then take a long-haul flight?’

Moritz Schwarz, an environmental scientist asked an even tougher question. ‘Will it cost the world to save the planet?’ and concluded by saying, ‘it is easier to imagine the end of the world, than the end of capitalism’.

Prof Andrea Ferrero, from Oxford University, addressed the topic from an economic perspective and shared some eye-watering stats – if global temperatures rise by 2.8 degrees by 2100 the cost for US would be $300 billion per year. He urged us to think of climate change as a “market failure”.

Other distinguished speakers from the world of science and economics talked about climate policy, alternatives to fossil fuels, the need for “mass innovation” and focus on breakthrough technologies such as marine and hydro energy. There was also a discussion around emerging green fuels, and a note of optimism in the potential for new jobs in this burgeoning sector when students listening reach the job market in the future.

Mike Gallacher, Head of Economics and Politics at OHS, who helped arrange the conference said:

“The conference was a superb idea by Emma to organise a world-class range of speakers to inspire her generation on how to make a difference on the issue of our time. Her dedication, during lockdown, in contacting UK Economics and climate change global experts and persuading them of the need to share ideas with sixth formers, is truly humbling…  As a teacher at Oxford High School it has been a privilege to walk alongside Emma in this journey, as she sets the agenda on the environment that our generation has too often overlooked.  She is simply an amazing individual who has organised the best line-up of speakers on a conference I have ever seen.  She really is an utter legend!”