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Lamisi Awini (left) and Patience Agyekum (right).

In a joint guest blog, Lamisi Awini and Patience Agyekum describe the impacts of the climate crisis on families and children in Ghana and call on leaders to centre intergenerational justice with urgent climate action.

This blog is the fifth in The Elders’ 'Beyond Declarations' Climate Blog Series 2022 and features an introduction by Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia:

"Children born today will face disproportionate increases in droughts, heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and crop failures due to climate change. Lamisi and Patience rightly call for world leaders to put children first and to respond to the intergenerational injustice of the climate emergency with urgent action.

As leaders gather in Sharm El Sheikh this November for COP27, they must remember what is at stake. They must commit to real-world action on the climate crisis, demonstrating how they will do more to reduce emissions and to ensure financing for both adaptation and loss and damage is delivered. The action Lamisi and Patience are taking to promote accountability and justice for current and future generations is vital. By working together to forge a safer world, we can ensure our children inherit a liveable planet and a more hopeful future."

- Juan Manuel Santos

Why would a youth activist set up a group to bring parents together on climate? And why would a parent join it? These are questions that are frequently asked of both of us. And there is one answer that pulls us together: Ghana’s children.

Children are on the frontlines of the climate crisis now and it is they who will face the consequences if our leaders fail to act. We feel they need to be at the heart of discussions at COP27 and beyond. 

Ghana is facing multiple climate impacts. Last year, Fumeve, a fishing community in the Volta region of Ghana, was largely wiped away by the sea as a result of tidal waves worsened by climate change. The houses, the schools were lost to the waves. Fisher folks lost their livelihoods and the community was uprooted to nearby Agorkedzi. It was heartbreaking to hear it introduced as “the old Fumeve community” and painful to hear a young boy say he wanted the government to build sea defences in their new community because he was scared that his home might be lost again.

Lamisi’s own community in Zebilla, in the Upper East region of Ghana, is being confronted with droughts and floods. It was looking at this destruction now and realising that her children would further suffer as the climate crisis intensifies in the future that spurred her to join the Parents for Future Ghana Movement. Flooding means children are unable to get to school as the roads become impassable. Farmers are left devastated after harvests are completely washed away. For families this means it is hard to put food on the table and feed their kids.

The Parents for Future Ghana movement forms part of the Strategic Youth Network for Development (SYND)’s intergenerational climate justice campaign which calls children, youth and the older generation (the parents and grandparents) to work together to save our planet. We believe there is the need for all members of society to work together to protect the environment. Because no single individual or group can do it alone. 

Patience was inspired by meeting parents in virtual forums from across the world campaigning for their children as a part of the Our Kids’ Climate and Parents For Future Global network. What parent climate campaigning looks like is different in each context, but all parents are united by one common goal: to campaign for a healthy and thriving environment for their children and generations to come. 

So at COP27, we are calling on world leaders to put children first and take urgently needed climate action. COP27 leaders must establish a Loss and Damage Finance Facility to help families cope with extreme floods, heat waves and rising seas. They must also provide adequate funding to finance adaptation. This is not some abstract issue. At heart, it is about ensuring the children from “the old Fumeve community” - and others like them - have homes, schools and life chances that are not lost to an increasingly dangerous sea and volatile climate, and that communities are able to pick up the pieces after disaster. 

They also must urgently phase down fossil fuels, which are affecting our children’s health now, as well as stealing their futures. Over 90 percent of children worldwide are breathing dirty, toxic air because of the burning of fossil fuels. A recent World Bank report revealed air pollution to be the number one environmental risk to Ghana’s public health, with infants particularly vulnerable.

They must also listen to children. We spoke to Enoch, a 13 year old from Wisdom Ways Academy, who is part of SYND’s Children for Climate Initiative. He told us that when he grows up, he fears the world will be “a deserted land” with “so much pollution in the air.” He has a message for world leaders. He wants them to negotiate with their children, grandchildren and all children of the world in their thoughts. He hopes with children in their hearts, that they will finally understand the stakes and accelerate climate action. 

The climate crisis is an intergenerational crisis that affects children and their rights now, and in the future. For their sake, we must act. 

Lamisi Awini is a mother of a 12 year old son and a member of Parents for Future Ghana, which was launched in June 2022 and inspired by global parent campaigning on climate. Lamisi has spent most of her career working as an environmental health officer, mobilizing communities and educating them about climate change. 

Patience Agyekum works with children, young people, and parents to push for clean air, climate action, and accountability from policymakers in Ghana. She is the focal person for Policy and Climate Change at the Strategic Youth Network for Development (SYND), working to ensure that the voices of young people are heard and included in Ghana’s climate plans. She led the formation of Parents for Future group in Ghana in June 2022 as part of her project under the Climate Parent Fellowship.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation

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