TSL 2017 International Schools Essay Competition and Debate

Dear Mr. UN Secretary General:

Can we beat climate change by 2030?

Global essay competition and debate invites schoolchildren to explore practical pathways for climate action


Congratulations to the 2017 Finalists, Honourable Mentions and all participating students and schools – the essay submissions this year were amazing! 

All participating students and Teacher Champions were invited to attend the TSL 2017 Debates, Awards and Visits in Oxford, UK. 

This year, the Trust for Sustainable Living received a record 1,232 entries from Teacher Champions in 77 countries and around 200 people from over 30 countries attended the TSL Schools Debates.

Veda Fernandes (Jumeirah Primary School, UAE) collected the 2017 Grand Prize, while Aninthitha Nath (RN Podar School, India) won 1st Prize in the Secondary Schools category.

Media Release: 11-year old from Dubai wins Grand Prize in essay competition – Top 5 Primary and Secondary School essay medallists announced

Read the Top 5 prize winning essays – Primary Schools category – Secondary Schools category

Students from 30 countries debate climate solutions – Debate winners announced

Primary School Finalists and Honourable Mentions

Secondary School Finalists and Honourable Mentions

Debate Programme – Speakers & Presenters Debate FAQ’s – Accommodation Options – Register 

The top Prize Winning essays were sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

TSL invited schoolchildren from around the world to write open letters to the newly-elected UN Secretary General, outlining their ideas for practical climate action. 

The annual TSL essay competition and debate is aimed at primary students (ages 7-11) and secondary students (ages 11-17), supported by their Teacher Champions.

The overall Grand Prize winner (plus Teacher Champion and parent) won a free trip to the Debates & Awards in the UK. In addition, medals were awarded in each category for the top ten essays and for the best individual and group contributions at the Debates.

See the highlights from last year’s competition (Are Sustainable Cities Possible?)

Key Dates

1 September 2016 – School/Teacher registration opens.

18 December 2016 at midnight GMT  – Final deadline for essay submissions (and Schools Sustainability Challenge video entries).

31 January 2017 (2400 GMT) – Schools notified of essay competition Finalists and Honourable Mentions.

15 February-31 May 2017 – Registration period for the Schools Debates, Awards and Visits. Register (this is compulsory in order to attend).

3-7 July 2017 – International Schools Debates, Awards and Visits, Oxford, UK – Latest Updated Programme. Speakers & Presenters.  Debate FAQ’s. Accommodation Options. In addition to the Primary or Secondary School Debate, which take place on consecutive days, participants will enjoy a special programme of climate action themed visits and events, including workshops and exchanges to help Teacher Champions deliver quality teaching back at their schools. All participants other than the Grand Prize Winner’s party are responsible for making their own travel arrangements (e.g. flights, transfers, accommodation, subsistence and miscellaneous costs).

Essay Competition

Students are invited to write an essay outlining their thoughts on climate action, in English, as follows:

Primary students (ages 7-11): ‘My Plan for Climate Action’ (max. 400 words)

Secondary students (ages 11-17): ‘We Can Beat Climate Change by 2030’ (max. 600 words)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (pictured here at Rio+20) received the Winners' essays from the 2012 competition, 'Dear Mr. UN Secretary General...'.

Outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (pictured here at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil) received the Prize Winners’ essays from the 2012 competition.

An international judging panel, drawn from experts and educationalists in the field, will select the winning entries for each age category. The essays will be judged for originality and creative thinking and the potential to contribute to a broad-ranging and constructive international dialogue on future pathways for climate action. The winning essays will be published on the competition website.

For each category, schools are invited to submit up to 30 essays online. (These must be submitted by the Teacher Champion, using the login details provided at registration. We regret that paper and emailed copies cannot be accepted, and essays more than 10% over the word limit will be automatically rejected.)

Resources for Schools

#GlobalGoal13To assist teachers and students in preparing for the competition and debate, we are pleased to provide links to supporting online Teacher Resources. (To access supporting resources on themes from previous years, use the menu bar at the upper left hand side of this page.)

Teacher Help page


TSL 2017 Schools Sustainability Challenge

In addition to the essay competition, the Trust for Sustainable Living runs a parallel international contest called the Schools Sustainability Challenge. Teacher Champions are invited to submit short videos showcasing their schools’ best sustainability projects. Schools are welcome to participate in both contests. The Challenge winners will be announced at the 2017 Debates & Awards in the UK.

Enquiries & Updates

Subscribe to our newsletter (using the form in the sidebar), to receive periodic updates and announcements about the competition.

Email queries should be directed to: schools[AT]livingrainforest[DOT]org

Subscribe to our newsletters

About our charity

Learn more about the work done by The Trust for Sustainable Living... Read more