Children need green pandemic recovery, celebrity parents tell UK PM

Children play with hula-hoops in Wales, Britain, on June 29, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - More than 100 high-profile parents from tech entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox to fashion designer Vivienne Westwood urged Britain's government on Sunday (July 26) to ensure economic recovery from the pandemic tackles climate change and puts children at its centre.

The 115 business leaders, musicians, scientists, actors and campaigners used an open letter to urge Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to "build our way out of one disaster by super-charging the next".

Actress Julie Walters, who was among the signatories, said governments should ramp up their efforts to tackle climate change, in the same way they have responded to protect people from Covid-19.

"For the sake of our children, we need governments to put the same energy and investment into preventing an even greater climate catastrophe from unfolding across the globe," she said.

If planet-warming emissions rebound to pre-pandemic levels, it would have "catastrophic consequences for children's lives and livelihoods", the letter warned, with those from the poorest and most disadvantaged communities being hit hardest.

Spending on green measures - like boosting renewable energy, insulating homes, installing electric vehicle charging points and re-establishing woodlands - would create more and better jobs than rebuilding a fossil-fuel economy, it said.

Young people have been most likely to lose their jobs or see their income drop during the virus lockdown, it noted.

"Investing in a low-carbon recovery makes sense whether you are worried about the economy or the environment. The two are inextricably linked," said the former chief executive of Unilever Paul Polman, who signed the letter.

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, who has campaigned to have the 2013 death of her nine-year-old daughter from asthma officially linked to illegal levels of air pollution, said she hoped that as a father with a baby, Johnson would understand the impact.

"This is not an elitist conversation, air pollution affects the poorest and vulnerable the most, and we need to continue the fight," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Every time the prime minister goes 'build, build, build', I worry there's nothing green about the initiatives," said Kissi-Debrah, who is the World Health Organisation's advocate for health and air quality.

Parents plan to gather outside the prime minister's residence in Downing Street on Sunday to coincide with the letter, coordinated by climate activist groups Mothers Rise Up and Parents for Future UK.

The parents, standing a metre apart, will carry hand-held wind turbines to symbolise the need for low-carbon investment.

The British government has a binding target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

In June, Britain's independent Committee on Climate Change said the country would have to move faster to achieve that goal.

Its chairman John Gummer emphasised the need to take advantage of a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" presented by the pandemic to shift the economy onto a greener path.

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