Climate Change

Run-up to CoP27: Parents revive demand to cut fossil fuel financing, urge leaders to prioritise child health

Last year a delegation of mothers presented a letter signed by over a million parents to the CoP president

By Bhavreen Kandhari
Published: Wednesday 02 November 2022
Stop financing fossil fuels, protect our children: Parents to world leaders ahead of CoP27 Photo: Bhavreen Kandhari

Are we failing our children? Did we do enough to stop climate change? Can we say we have a last chance? If yes, then what are we waiting for?

Parents and grandparents from across the world will be asking these questions during the ‘Kids First’ campaign at the 27th Conference of Parties (CoP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Egypt next week.

Several organisations such as Our Kids’ Climate, Parents For Future, Warrior Moms will be calling on world leaders to make sure that the health, futures and rights of children are central to the CoP27 agenda, discussions and negotiations. 

The delegation from South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, India, Brazil and the United Kingdom will be heading to Sharm-el-Sheikh in Africa later this month to put the voices and needs of kids at the forefront of the delegates' minds. 

They would also like to remind the world leaders and politicians that they are parents too, and it is every parent’s foremost duty to protect their children and give them a healthy future.

Last year, a delegation of mothers reached Glasgow during CoP26 with similar demands and handed a letter signed by over 1 million parents from 44 countries to CoP President Alok Sharma.  

The primary demand in the letter was for world leaders to stop financing new fossil fuel projects. The parent groups wrote:

Our children are being poisoned by toxic pollution from burning fossil fuels with every breath they take. That burning is also the key driver of the climate crisis, which is ruining our children’s futures and destroying our only home.

Fossil fuels are the source of 86 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, the activists wrote.

Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion and smoke from bushfires and wildfires made worse by the climate crisis lodges inside children’s bodies, stunting the development of their lungs, brains and hearts, the groups wrote. It causes and aggravates chronic diseases from asthma to cancer, they added. 

“Babies are poisoned before they’re born with soot breathed in by expectant mothers, which crosses the placental barrier and increases the chances of premature birth,” the note read.

Air pollution also means children grow up suffering higher instances of mental health issues like anxiety and depression, adding to the burden of deep distress they now feel about the future, the civil society organisations highlighted.

One billion children are already facing extremely high risk of immediate harm from the devastating impacts of the climate crisis, they added. “Children of colour and in marginalised communities are the worst affected.”

One of the crucial steps is to stop funding the search for new fossil fuel reserves and governments can enact this immediately, they wrote in the letter. 

The aggrieved parents also took their ask ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first international United Nations summit, with the voices of parents, grandparents & carers from across the world in support of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. They urged leaders to help place health impacts of fossil fuels and children’s rights at the centre of climate talks.

Around 93 per cent of children worldwide are breathing toxic air, making them susceptible to asthma as well as hampering their cardiovascular and cognitive development, the mothers highlighted In a follow-up meeting with Sharma.

Dr Maria Neira, director of public health and environment at the World Health Organization, who joined the meeting as a mother, said during the meeting: 

Governments are spending $5.3 trillion collectively on treating the consequences of air pollution. The combustion of fossil fuels is killing us and filling our hospitals with kids suffering from chronic disease. It’s harming the brain development of our next generation. This is why we have to move to clean energy as quickly as possible.

World leaders know and even give speeches about how the climate crisis is already here and worsening. They acknowledge that sea levels are rising, and those who are most vulnerable and least responsible for the crisis are suffering the most, especially in the Global South. 

And yet the fossil fuel juggernaut continues on like a runaway train with our children’s futures on the track. We are set to produce twice as much coal, oil and gas as what is compatible with global climate goals. We wonder how world leaders have the strength to look today’s children in the eye.

We need a new story, a new chapter for our children. This is why we are joining a growing call on governments to urgently commence negotiations to develop and implement a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The purpose of the treaty is:

  • To prevent the proliferation of coal, oil and gas by ending all new exploration and production
  • To phase out existing stockpiles and infrastructure producing fossil fuels in line with the 1.5°C global climate goal
  • To fast-track a just transition to sustainable development and a future where communities across the globe can flourish, facilitating the beginning of an era of peace, longed for in the history of humanity

But what have world leaders done instead? Global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 6 per cent in 2021 to 36.3 billion tonnes — the highest ever — as the world economy rebounded strongly from the COVID-19 crisis, according to an International Energy Agency analysis.

Emissions during 2010-19 were around 12 per cent and 54 per cent higher than in 2010 and 1990! This shows that world leaders haven’t paid attention to climate science and pushed our children towards disaster. They are in fact continuing to push future generations towards extinction.

"Catastrophe is not a matter of fate; it is a matter of choice,” the parent groups said. This is why signing a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is the only choice we can accept.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.

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