Thousands of mothers and their families marched through central London on Sunday to demand urgent action on climate change and dramatic cuts in carbon emissions.
The Mothers Rise up protest was led by eleven 11-year-olds to represent the 11-year window to act on climate change, set out by the world’s leading climate scientists in a landmark UN report last year.
A spokesperson for the group said that an estimated 2,500 people attended the march on International Mother’s Day in support of youth climate strikes nationwide.
Families, including many young children in prams, marched from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square holding placards with slogans including “Do Not Mess with a Lioness”, “Vote 4 Mother Earth” and “There’s No Planet B”.
Similar marches took place across the country and internationally on the same day, with rallies in the Netherlands, Spain and Australia.
One of the mothers on the march, Maria Hall, 34, of Hertfordshire said she worried that her two daughters aged two and four might not be left with a planet to grow up on.
“It just scares me that we’ve brought them into this world and that there’s not a future for them at the moment that’s worth living for, unless we do something about it,” she said.
Illana Adamson, a 48-year-old sustainability consultant, said: “I’ve got a daughter who’s 13, and mainly I can’t bear the thought of me having done nothing to change the trajectory of this. I am terrified at what the growing climate crisis means for our children.”
Other parents highlighted the limited time left to mitigate the worst effects of climate changes, according to the report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Bryony Barker, of Brentford, said: “We have 11 years in which to really make a difference and if we don’t make enough action in that, then almost any action we do isn’t going to help us.
“If methane gas is produced from permafrost, if we haven’t got the ice sheets reflecting the heat back, then even if we pulled out all the stops then we would be too late.
“And my kids are going to be 16 when it’s too late, so we have to do it for them.”
The march came as exclusive polling for The Independent showed that a majority of Britons backed radical action on climate change. Six out of 10 supported spending tens of billions to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
Becky Burchell, a 29-year-old mother of two from Dorset, said her family’s plans for the future had massively changed in response to the climate crisis.
“We’ve moved to the countryside to a small village and my job is now focused around how the arts can help tackle the problem around climate change,” she said. “It’s made me reprioritise what’s important.”
Other parents emphasised the need for the government to take decisive action on climate change.
Matt Colnell, 52-year-old father of three from Derbyshire, said: “What we need is for the powers that be to come together and put us on a serious footing to do something serious about our futures.
“It can’t be piecemeal, it can’t be voluntary – we need global action and we need it now.”
Don Burgess, a 51-year-old doctor from London, said: “For my kids, if they’re going to survive and have any quality of life, we need to make changes. A lot of what we’re doing now, we know how to make it better but we need to have the political will to actually make it better.”
And Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, who daughter Ella died from an asthma attack believed to be linked to air pollution in London, said: ”Business as usual – toxic pollution in our streets and our schools – is fuelling a crisis that is making our kids sick and it is families in the deprived areas that are paying the heaviest price.”
Ms Huq also addressed the crowds at the rally, and said: “The reason we are here is because of the youth strikes – the young people have been putting us to shame and it’s time for us adults to take responsibility.”
The Mother’s Rise Up protest comes weeks after the Extinction Rebellion movement brought parts of London to a standstill to demand action on climate change and MPs voted to declare a climate emergency.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has inspired worldwide school strikes, also visited London last month and condemned the government’s support for fossil fuels and airport expansion as “beyond absurd”.
And on Saturday, health secretary Matt Hancock named dirty air as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK and warned of a growing national health emergency triggered by the “slow and deadly poison” of air pollution.
He announced that he had commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to carry out a review of the impact of air pollution on the UK’s health.
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