High school senior participates in international climate change summit

Mar 7, 2021

Proposing climate-conscious policies for a foreign country and coordinating virtual meetings across time zones — these were among the tasks given to senior Cecilia Bottino and her fellow attendees as part of an international climate change summit.

During February break, Bottino participated in the 2021 Knovva Academy's G20 Virtual Summit on Climate Change and the Future of Humanity. The summit brought students from around the globe together for four days of learning about the climate crisis and brainstorming solutions. 

As a three-year member of the Global Education Club at Wareham High School, Bottino said she learned about the summit from her teacher, Col. Matt Stanton. She also knew two students who participated in the summit in 2019 — when it was held in Beijing, instead of remotely due to the coronavirus. 

“I was really interested, especially because I’m passionate about climate change,” Bottino said. “I really care about protecting our world because I really appreciate nature. I think a lot about how we as a society are kind of damaging it every day.”

The 17-year-old said it’s important to her to preserve the environment for future generations. She also emphasized her passion for global issues. Bottino is in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at the High School, and she plans to study international business and Korean in college.

With Stanton’s help and coordination, Bottino received a full scholarship to attend the summit from the Wareham School District Global Education Office.

At the summit, small groups of six or seven people were assigned to countries in “working groups,” Bottino explained. Each country’s working group was tasked with developing policies that were specific to their country and also involved international cooperation with other country’s working groups. 

“We had to come up with climate-friendly policies that would be realistic — we couldn’t just be like, ‘Oh, we’re getting rid of all the coal,’” Bottino said. “We had to say, ‘This is how it’s going to function, this is why we’re doing this, this is how it’ll work when it’s actually introduced into the society.’”

Bottino and the other members of her working group — who were from China, India, Indonesia and Peru — were tasked with creating policies for the UK. 

“I was working with people from all over the world, but we were working with a country that none of us lived in,” Bottino said.

She said the UK was a particularly interesting country to create policies for because of the way the culture differs between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Bottino was selected to be her group’s co-head of state alongside her teammate from China, Yuki Wang. The other five people in her group served as ministers in areas like energy and internal communications. The ministers looked at the various ways climate change would impact the UK.

The summit took place from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. — at least for Bottino. Her teammates were working on very different schedules. Bottino said working around the time zones was actually one of the most difficult parts of the summit.

“We’re all students in high school, so our schedules are pretty packed as well,” she added. 

Although she thought it might be a problem, language barriers were not an issue Bottino faced within her group. 

“It was really eye-opening to see the fact that all these kids from all these different countries speak really good English,” she said. 

There were a few times when Wang helped with translation, but Bottino said everyone’s English was impressive. “I said to them, ‘Honestly, I really appreciate that you guys are going out of your way to communicate in this language that you’re not [a native speaker of].’”  

In the end, Bottino’s group created four climate-friendly policies, including one that focused on implementing electric cars in the UK in cooperation with Germany and Japan. 

Reflecting on the summit, Bottino said one of her favorite parts was working on solutions to a global problem with peers from all over the world. She said she was grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the summit.

“It was really amazing to see us — the younger generation, the new generation — be able to come together and work toward this common goal,” Bottino said. “It really showed me that there’s a lot of hope for our future.”