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A letter to my sons

One year later

Reflecting on where we have got to since I wrote this letter, it's easy to despair. So called 'rare' weather shocks are happening regularly everywhere, and we may be beyond the point of no return for the melting Greenland ice sheet. I read some UK newspaper commentators saying we should ditch even today's inadequate commitments to reduce carbon emissions because they are hard. Seriously? I think mass flooding and scalding summers are pretty hard too. Never mind the 45,000 excess deaths in Somalia last year - half of those children - in the worst drought of 40 years. 

So I refuse to despair. Children and young people around the world are demanding action and more adults are listening. Those who deny the climate crisis are now recognised as the outliers. More countries and companies are looking for solutions. I don't underestimate the challenge. The forecasts are terrifying. But we all want our children and grandchildren to have a future. So we have to be the 'grown-ups' and take the tough decisions. Now! 

27th September 2022

To my sons,  

I’m writing this letter to you at what feels like a crossroads for the world. After the hottest UK temperatures on record this summer, and droughts being declared in many places, the warning signs to get serious about the climate crisis are here. Some people are arguing that high food and fuel prices mean we can’t afford to worry about the planet. We definitely need to worry about people – and make sure those who are struggling get serious, urgent help. We can’t have children in the UK going to bed cold and hungry in 2022. But we can’t give up on the idea of a better future – one that is fairer and greener.   

You know this better than anyone - you frequently remind me that it's your generation's future at stake, and how frustrated you are that adults don't seem to care.

I’m so proud of you both – for the way you’ve coped with all the change you’ve been through in your lives so far, and what’s still to come. From living in four continents, to working your way through school, and finding your own interests (though I’ll always prefer gardening to climbing!) I want nothing but the absolute best for you both, and hope that your futures will be defined by immense amounts of love, laughter, and success. But as a parent I worry about how the climate crisis will impact your lives, and that of your own families, in the years to come. 

As CEO of Save the Children UK, I also worry for the lives of the children and families we are here to serve, in the UK and around the world. In many of the places where we work, we are already seeing the devastating effects of an overheating planet. Persistent droughts, coupled with conflict, soaring food prices and the ongoing economic impact of COVID-19 have triggered the worst global hunger crisis in decades. 49 million people are now on the brink of famine across 46 countries – many of these are young children, who could die of hunger, or suffer lifelong damage from the effects of malnutrition. In Pakistan, one-third of the country is under water. While children are the least responsible for these crises, it’s children who have the most to lose.   

This is not the world I want you to inherit – and it doesn’t have to be.  

I hope that in years to come if you read this letter, you will look back and see that those in positions of power took the right path. I hope that Governments around the world, including your own, will be looking back, pleased that they took decisive action now, instead of mortgaging your future. I hope you will see leaders, businesses and communities standing in solidarity together, to help those on the frontlines of climate change to adapt and cope with the weather shocks that we are already too late to prevent.    

I hope you will have already seen a fairer, greener future come into being. A future where every child has an equal chance to achieve their dreams, with enough nutritious food to eat, access to a decent education and somewhere safe to call home. Where decent – and decently paid – jobs and good healthcare are commonplace. Where famines are a thing of the past and our natural environment is flourishing.  


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