Pauline Trepczyk

Climate Change Policy Officer, British Embassy Vienna

Guest blogger for Leigh Turner

Part of UK in Austria

15th October 2020 Vienna, Austria

Debating: today’s most important skill?

On 29 September the British Embassy Vienna invited young people from all over Austria to join a Debate Workshop. Youth from Salzburg, Upper and Lower Austria, Carinthia as well as Vienna came together, separated by appropriate “baby elephants” (Austria’s 1.5m rule) to practice their skills.

Trainers from Debattierklub Vienna, Joy Edobor and Miri Muntean, introduced the participants to the world of debating, specifically the rules of British parliamentary debates. Nerys Jones, British Deputy Head of Mission and Giuseppe Abignente from the Italian Embassy Vienna, opened the workshop.

Debating is a big part of British culture. Debating societies emerged in London as early as the 18th Century and have been a staple ever since. Topics ranged from current events and governmental policy, to love and marriage. The societies welcomed participants of all genders and all social backgrounds, exemplifying the enlarged public sphere of the Age of Enlightenment.

We continue this tradition and as a topic have decided to tackle “Building Back Better”. COVID-19 has illustrated the need to prepare for and build resilience, keeping in mind that Climate Change is a challenge we need to face in parallel. We have the opportunity to learn from the pandemic, making recovery greener and enabling resilience through focused and effective adaptation.

The premise of the debate was “This house believes that the government should adapt to climate change, rather than trying to prevent it.” According to the debating rules of British Parliamentary Style, the participants split in groups and needed to find arguments whether adaptation or mitigation should be prioritised by the government. Interestingly enough, both parties stated that investing in renewable energies creates jobs and that we are uncertain what the future brings, therefore we should (not) only adapt to climate change.

I’m extremely pleased that the UK, with Italy, has been nominated to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in 2021, also known as COP26 in Glasgow. Climate change impacts all of us – both at a personal level and at a professional level. Young people are an important voice and a powerful catalyst for change.

We hope this Debate Workshop provided the participants with a new skill set, that they can use during personal encounters with key stakeholders or future career paths. We believe that what we have learned during the fruitful workshop by DKWien, gave us a bigger picture of understanding contradictory views and the power of a good argument.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.