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Biggest parent mobilisation in history calls for an end to all new fossil fuels to safeguard children’s health and futures.

Almost 500 parent groups from 44 countries have come together to make unprecedented call 

A delegation of mothers delivered a hard-hitting letter to COP26 President Alok Sharma today, calling for the end of new fossil fuels financing for the sake of their children’s health and their futures. 

The letter, addressed to Heads of State and COP26 Delegates, was signed by 488 parent groups from 44 countries across the globe and is thought to be the biggest parent mobilisation on any issue in history.   

The delegation of mothers was led by UK mother Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who  lost her nine-year-old daughter Ella due to severe asthma linked to air pollution. She was joined by mothers from India, Brazil, South Africa, Poland, and Nigeria.  

A soundscape capturing the sound of a child having an asthma attack was played at the hand-in to underline the severe impact that burning fossil fuels has on children’s health.  

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, a clean air campaigner from the UK, who lost her daughter Ella as a result of air pollution, said: “Lots of words and no action – and toxic pollution on our streets – is fuelling a public health crisis that is making our kids sick and threatening their futures. We need urgent action now. We are calling on world leaders at COP26 to implement the new WHO Guidelines, clean up our air and stop our children dying. This means ending new fossil fuels right now. Governments cozying up to fossil fuel companies and wasting taxpayers’ money to look for even more is just unacceptable.”

Some 93 percent of children worldwide breathe toxic air. Air pollution is the most significant health crisis facing children today and is directly related to the climate crisis: fossil fuel burning is the lead cause of both. Children are especially vulnerable because they tend to spend more time outside and are more active than adults. Children in marginalized communities and those in the Global South are exposed to higher levels of air pollution, and most vulnerable to the accelerating climate crisis. 

The letter from parents says that there are “already more than enough fossil fuels discovered to dangerously heat our planet beyond 1.5ºC and keep poisoning our children’s air.” It calls on leaders to listen to experts such as the International Energy Agency, which has warned that there should be no more coal, oil or gas investments if we want to keep 1.5ºC in sight.   

In the letter, the parents told delegates, “We make decisions every day for our children’s long-term future, and here at COP26, so do you. You have a unique responsibility and opportunity to protect all children, present and future.”

After delivering their letter, the mothers joined youth activists on the streets of Glasgow, who have made similar calls for an end to fossil fuel financing. 

The letter says that “air pollution from fossil fuel combustion, and the bush-and wildfire smoke made worse by the climate crisis, lodges inside our children’s bodies, stunting the development of their lungs, brains and hearts.” 

Women in the delegation all have personal experience of their own children suffering as a result of air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels.  

The delegation included Amuche Nnabueze from Parents For Future Nigeria, Bhavreen Khandhari from Warrior Moms, Marianna Menezes, from Familias Pelo Clima in Brazil, Xoli Fuyani, Our Kids’ Climate in South Africa, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, a clean air campaigner from the UK, Kamila Kadzidlowska, a polish mother from Rodzice Dla Klimatu and Jemima Hartshorn from Mums for Lungs in the UK. 

The letter was signed by groups from Australia to Zimbabwe, with grassroot groups like Parents For Future Uruguay standing alongside large organizations like Moms Clean Air Force, a movement of over a million mothers, in the US.  

Quotes: 

Kamila Kadzidlowska, a polish mother from Rodzice Dla Klimatu, whose children have suffered as a result of air pollution from coal-fired power stations said: 

“My children are growing up in the country that is the most polluted and one of the biggest polluters in Europe. My children cough and suffer respiratory diseases because of toxic coal pollution. I can’t stop them getting sick unless our leaders make bold choices. This COP26 needs to consign new fossil fuels to history. My children are too small to demand that today, so I am here for them, and for the millions of other children living in polluted regions of the world. Please protect our children’s health now and give them a brighter, safer future.”

Bhavreen Khandhari from Warrior Moms, a group of mothers fighting air pollution in India said: 

“My girls live with a very high risk of developing respiratory infections that stem from Delhi’s excessively polluted air. For children to have the lungs of a smoker by their teens, through no fault of their own, just by breathing air is absolutely unacceptable. Fossil fuels are fuelling the climate crisis and harming our kids. We need governments to listen to us. Keep our children safe!”

Governments continue to approve licences for new mines, wells and infrastructures. Just last year, fossil fuels received $5.9 trillion in subsidies in 2020 (around $11 million every minute). The parents have urged governments to radically rethink.  

Xoli Fuyani, Our Kids’ Climate in South Africa said: 

I implore COP delegates to think of a child they know, and act in their interests. Children in the Global South are already feeling the brunt of the climate crisis. Act to give them a future. Why are governments still subsidizing the search for more fossil fuels with public money every year? Why are they approving licences for new mines, wells and infrastructure? Our children deserve better!  We can move beyond fossil fuels.”

Molly Rauch, Public Health Policy Director, Moms Clean Air Force in the US, said: 

“Climate change is an urgent public health crisis, and our children are in the crosshairs. Our children are suffering right now from the interconnected and inextricable scourges of air pollution and climate change. The good news is that if we solve for one of these problems, we solve for the other, and the health benefits will be enormous. But, as the world’s scientists have told us, there isn’t a single moment to waste.” 

Marianna Menezes, a mother of three, and leader with Familias Pelo Clima in Brazil said: “Our leaders insist, even now, in 2021, that they have a right to burn our forests and to continue to burn fossil fuels. And what’s worse, they do this with subsidies financed by our money, the money of the parents. It is necessary to attack the root of the problem. We must stop the financing of new fossil fuels, which is leading to the collapse of our planet. I believe that we, as guardians of these children and generations to come, have a duty to speak up. I believe that nothing is more powerful than a mother defending her children’s lives.

Amuche Nnabueze, Parents For Future Nigeria said: In Nigeria thousands of people are dying every day from air pollution, and we are especially vulnerable from the impacts of climate change – from extreme heat and rain, to rising sea levels. I’m asking for an end to all new fossil fuels to give children across Nigeria, and the world, the chance to breathe clean air, and the chance of a more hopeful future as emissions fall.”  

Patrice Tomcik, National Field Manager, Moms Clean Air Force, who lives in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, U.S said: “As a mother who lives with oil and gas operations in my community, I am deeply concerned about the air pollution my children are being exposed to everyday I send them to school, located half a mile from fracked gas wells and pipelines.Because so many children are living, playing, and learning in close proximity to oil and gas operations, I support solutions that will protect our children from the industry’s pollution that harms health and accelerates climate change.” 

Dr Arvind Kumar,  Founder Trustee of Lung Care Foundation/ Doctors For Clean Air and Climate Action, said: As doctors, we have seen the ill effects of air pollution on our patients. This is a public health emergency, affecting the lives of people all over the world, with the worst impacts in South Asia. Fossil fuels are the root cause of both air pollution and the climate crisis. Governments across South Asian countries need to urgently align their national air quality standards with the latest WHO guidelines and take a regional approach, keeping health at the heart of actions to tackle and resolve the air pollution crisis. The time to act was yesterday, but we missed it. For the sake of future generations, we need to commit to do anything and everything that it takes to solve this crisis as early as possible. The price of our inaction today will be paid heavily by our future generations.

Shweta Narayan, Climate & Health Campaigner, Health Care Without Harm, said: 

“The climate crisis is a health crisis. It threatens our air, food, water, shelter, and security — the basics on which human life depends. Children are especially vulnerable to air pollutants and greenhouse gases released during the combustion of fossil fuels. In more than 93% of the world, children breathe unhealthy air, and the poorest and marginalized are more disproportionately affected. It is time to urgently phase out fossil fuels to give our children a chance to live on a healthy and habitable planet. We cannot expect our children to be healthy on a planet that is sick. To have healthy people, we need a healthy planet, and to have a healthy planet it is essential to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.” 

1. The full text of the parent letter and list of signatories can be viewed here
2. The soundscape played in the meeting is available here.
3. The parent letter was developed as a collaboration between Campaign Collective and two global sister networks: Our Kids’ Climate and Parents For Future Global, which bring parents together worldwide to take action on climate breakdown and air pollution to protect children from harm now and in the future. They have worked alongside Moms Clean Air Force (U.S.), Warrior Moms (India), Mums For Lungs (U.K.) and the Ella Roberta Family Foundation (U.K.).