In the lead-up to the United Nations talks in Paris next month, parents and grandparents from around the world announced Tuesday that they are launching a global coalition to demand climate solutions for the people they love most: their children.
"When I became a parent for first time, catastrophic climate change became a lot more real to me," Frida Berry Eklund with the Swedish organization Parents Roar told reporters on a call Tuesday. "To build parent power around the world we need to reach out to others around the world."
That's exactly what Our Kids' Climate plans to do when it stages marches and meetings at the COP21 meeting in Paris in November and December—alongside international civil society and social movement organizations, including youth organizers from around the world.
The coalition itself so far boasts 14 organizations that together represent over 800,000 people from eight countries around the world. While most groups hail from North America and Europe, organizers say they hope to expand and build more alliances with climate justice organizations in the global south, where people—especially children—are disproportionately bearing the brunt of human-made global warming.
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"This is a justice issue. Poor countries are most vulnerable to climate change," said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, director of the Peru-based organization No Planeta B, explaining why the coalition believes it is important to build a truly international effort. "As political momentum builds towards Paris, parents and grandparents will be mobilizing all over the world for this important meeting where the future of our children will be decided."
Studies show that children are particularly vulnerable to the food and water insecurity, disease, and air pollution associated with climate change, which according to the World Health Organization is already responsible for 150,000 total deaths every year. Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers found that 88 percent of climate-related diseases, from malaria to dengue fever, impact children. And researchers from the University of Utah examined 19 African countries to conclude that patterns associated with climate change—diminished rain and greater heat—led to lower birth weights for infants.
Meanwhile, within the United States, low-income people and communities of color are more likely to be exposed to immediately hazardous air pollution. A University of Minnesota study published last year found that people of color in the United States suffer nearly 40 percent more exposure to toxic air pollution than their white counterparts. "Industrial pollution from oil plants and fracking, these are poisoning families and communities now," said Molly Rauch of the group Moms Clean Air Force.
Given this dire reality, the coalition says it is advocating aggressive demands. "We want commitments now to keep global temperature rise at safe levels, and a world powered by 100% clean energy with net zero greenhouse gas emissions," the group declared in a petition that they plan to deliver to negotiators in Paris. The coalition says it will continue to mobilize after Paris, by lobbying governments and building their networks across the globe.
"As grandparents, we won’t be around to see the implementation of the energy policies in 2050," said Laurence Martin and Cynthia Sikorski from the Swiss group Grand-parents pour le climat. "Nevertheless, out of love for our grandchildren, it’s our responsibility to work towards a more harmonious world for both present and future generations."