This article reviews the aims of COP25 (the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference) and examines the reasons why its goals were not met.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, politics

Key Questions to Explore:

  • Why do these conferences continually fail to meet objectives?
  • Why is meaningful action never taken at these conferences?

New Terminology:


Materials Needed:

  • Copies of the article for the students
  • Access to the Internet for research
Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Another COP conference and another disappointing result! The Madrid conference failed even to meet the low expectations which had been set. Failing to meet Article 6 of the Paris Agreement – the global trading book for carbon credits – was a huge disappointment. Major states, led by the United States and reinforced by President Trump’s declared intention to pull out of the Agreement, keep blocking major decisions that are urgently needed. Canada came to the conference with a dedication to meet or exceed its goal to reduce emissions by 30 % of 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – a promise made by the Trudeau government if re-elected. As a result, Canada got favourable reviews although countries are watching what will happen to the Teck Frontier project that, if approved, would add four million tonnes a year of carbon emissions to Canada’s greenhouse gas production.

This lesson will have the students debate whether these scheduled conferences will actually prove to be meaningful by producing concrete action plans or, indeed, be nothing but a political ploy by various countries to appear to be seriously attacking this global crisis.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they were disappointed by the outcomes of the Madrid conference on climate change.
  • If they are aware of the outcomes, hold a brief discussion and then hand out the article to them.
  • If they are not aware of the outcomes, give them the article to read and then discuss their reactions.
  • Once either of these has been done, inform the students that they are going to be involved in a general debate about the value of these conferences.
  • Divide the class in two and assign one group the positive role and the other group the negative role to the following:

Be it resolved that: The climate change conferences are a waste of time. They are nothing more than political posturing with no real intention of bringing about change.

  • Allow time for each side to pick three students who will present the initial case and to prepare their presentation.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Have each side present their case and then hold a loosely structured debate involving the entire class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • identify the outcomes of the Madrid conference;
  • outline the reasons for disappointment with the conference;
  • offer an informed opinion as to the value of these conferences.

Confirming Activity:

  • Have the students discuss what they believe they should do to support the growing global push for action on climate change.