COP 27: Mothers come forward to protect children’s right to clean air and healthy environment

(Delegate of mothers interacting with media during the press conference at COP 27. Photo: Bhavreen Kandhari/Twitter)

A delegation of mothers from Our Kids’ Climate and Parents For Future Global – two networks uniting parents to act on climate – are attending COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh to urge world leaders to put children’s health, rights and futures at the heart of climate discussions and negotiations.

The delegation of accomplished grassroots activists from Botswana, Brazil, Ghana, India, South Africa and the UK held a press conference on 10 November, Youth and Future Generations Day at COP27, to urge world leaders to put kids first.

“The urgency and desperation of mothers is the reason that we’re here & stressing leaders to keep the Kids First in every decision,” said Bhavreen Kandhari, Co-founder, Warrior Moms India. Bhavreen is part of a delegation of mothers from the Our Kids’ Climate and Parents For Future Global networks at COP 27.

Bhavreen is an inspiring and experienced campaigner who has been pushing for clean air in India and beyond for over two decades. She is a co-founder of Warrior Moms, which brings mothers together across India to call for clean air for the sake of their children’s health. Bhavreen has spearheaded other public movements and campaigns in India to call for action on environmental justice issues, such as ‘My Right To Breathe’ and ‘Delhi Trees SOS’.

One billion children today are extremely vulnerable to climate disasters, especially those in the Global South. Over 90 percent of children worldwide are breathing polluted air. The key driver of this is the burning of fossil fuels – and yet governments and corporations are continuing to explore for new fossil fuels in defiance of the science and the warnings of the International Energy Agency. The mothers also called on rich countries to provide adequate finance for loss and damage to help communities and families already bearing the brunt of climate change.

“These fossil fuels threaten our children’s health. As a parent and as a mother I ask you please sign onto fossil fuel treaty and let’s get our governments to pick a side and protect us,” said Bhavreen during the press conference. She also shared her experience of her children’s illnesses and their struggle to breathe in Delhi, India.

Impact of air pollution on infants and children in India

India is one of the most polluted countries in the world. According to the 2019 World Air Quality Report, India is home to 21 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world. In these cities, air quality can be as much as 10 times over the safe limits of air pollution recommended by the WHO. Air pollution is serious public health concern as its puts infants and children at great risk.

As per the State of Global Air 2020 report, globally 476000 infants died in their first month of life in 2019 from health effects associated with air pollution exposure. More than 116,000 infants in India died within a month of birth in 2019 due to air pollution — outdoor and indoor — according to the report. The report highlighted that it is thought that air pollution may affect a pregnant woman, her developing foetus, or both through pathways similar to those of tobacco smoking, which is a well-known risk factor for low-birth weight and preterm birth.

“For the sake of the health of our planet and the people in it, we call on world leaders to decide today and stop the proliferation of fossil fuels, and start a rapid and just transition to cleaner energy sources. We owe it to our children”, said Dr. Arvind Kumar, renowned Indian Surgeon and Founder Trustee, Lung Care Foundation, Delhi, India.

Dr. Maria Neira, WHO tweeted about Dr. Arvind’s presentation at COP 27 on the affect of air pollution on infants and children. Dr. Arvind has been a big advocate of clean air for all movement in India.

#kidsfirst film

At the heart of the mothers’ campaign is a film that captures the voices, dreams and fears of children from across the world – from Tanzania to the Solomon Islands. The film features children from age 3 to 16 from 16 countries, giving a voice to the youngest children whose words are often missing in climate change discussions. The powerful #KidsFirst film was launched at the mothers’ press conference on 10 November.

 Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative officially launched at Climate Week NYC on September 25, 2020, at an event called “International Cooperation to Align Fossil Fuel Production with a 1.5°C World.” “The Treaty aims to be a complementary mechanism to the Paris Agreement by directly addressing the fossil fuel industry and putting the just transition at its core.” It includes a program to create a standalone Global Registry of Fossil Fuels to ensure transparency and accountability of production and reserves. Read more about the treaty here.

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