I am terrified for my kids' futures and I don't know how to deal with that fear

I can’t decide if I feel more angry or scared by Rishi Sunak’s announcement this week. 

Scared, probably – but only marginally.

His back-pedalling on the green pledges made by the Conservative Party just two years ago in order for the UK to achieve ‘net zero’ is only going to cause further, undoable damage to the world we’re leaving for our children.

As a mum, I can’t help but think it’s unforgivable.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced that green changes are far too expensive for a country in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and has therefore made huge U-turns on the UK’s climate change plan.

He has delayed the 2030 production ban on petrol and diesel cars to 2035, and he has even qualified this by saying non-electric cars will still be able to be bought second hand thereafter. And he has similarly pushed back the commitment to phase out gas boilers from 2026 to 2035.

Since he made this announcement, he has come under a barrage of criticism. And he can hardly be surprised.

Especially after the summer we have just witnessed, with wildfires blazing through Europe, Russia, Canada, to name just a few. Here in the UK, we swung from the hottest June on record to some parts of the nation experiencing record rainfalls for much of the rest of the summer.

Surely it has never been more apparent that we need to act to save our planet? And that we need to act now.

This action isn’t for us, but for our children. As a mum to Theo, five, and Immy, three, I am literally terrified for their future, and that of their whole generation.

What kind of world are they going to grow up in?

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Will their houses be ruined every year by flooding? Will they not be able to have a summer holiday abroad because the heat will just be too much? The thought now makes me worry – goodness knows the climate anxiety they’ll face and the effect it will have on their mental health.

On the surface, climate change will seemingly have quite a simple effect on the UK. Summers are going to be hotter and drier, while winters will be warmer and wetter. Although that doesn’t sound too bad – who doesn’t look forward to a nice hot sunny day? – these bring very real risks.

The heatwave of 2003 caused 2,000 excess deaths in the UK – and that was 20 years ago, so what will it be like 20 years from now? Or 40 years? Similarly, the wetter weather will likely cause more flooding and all of the resulting issues around that.

And the change in temperature is just the start.

When you think of the UK, you think of rolling green fields, an abundance of countryside, full of flora and fauna. An idyllic place to grow up, surrounded by nature.

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Yet, scarily, one in six species of UK wildlife face extinction because of climate change.

I used to love to see puffins when I went on family holidays up to Northumberland as a child – but the UK population is set to plummet by up to 90% over the next 30 years. Does that mean Theo and Immy will never see such seabirds in the wild?

Similarly basking sharks may leave our shores, leatherback turtles are already critically endangered, bumblebees and salmon – both crucial for their and our environment – are at risk.

Even oak trees are in danger because the climate is changing too quickly for them to adapt, and they’re now facing new pests and diseases, droughts and flooding.

Back in October 2021, the UK was already declared in the bottom 10% of the world’s most nature-depleted countries. By the time my children grow up, what is actually going to be left? 

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Because of the way the weather will affect crops, the food Theo and Immy eat is likely to be different – and even getting a cup of coffee will be far harder, as key coffee regions in Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia are all set to ‘drastically decrease’ by around 50% by 2050.

I had always imagined Theo and Immy going off into the world, travelling to exotic countries and experiencing new places and cultures.

But The Maldives could be 80% uninhabitable by 2050 at current global warming rates. The population of koala bears has nose-dived to between 100,000 and 200,000 since the stream of disasters in Australia have almost completely wiped out their natural habitat.

Yet, Theo and Immy are the lucky ones.

Because so many other countries – and children – are going to face even more devastating consequences of climate change.

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In the last decade, more than 150,000 deaths each year have been attributed to climate change – and nine out of 10 of those deaths were children.

In developing countries, climate change will increase the top five causes of death for children under five years old.

Climate change is increasing incidents of extreme weather and natural disasters – and in these events, children are more at risk of injury or death.

And this is only the next generation – what about the ones after that? How will Theo and Immy feel about bringing children into the world in 25 or 30 years? I would hate the thought of them not having the joy of having their own babies but I can understand it getting to a point when the future is too unstable to want to bring little ones into it. 

The Prime Minister said he was ‘absolutely unequivocal’ about adhering to the commitment of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and he pointed out that the UK is already ahead of other countries in taking action against climate change.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter who is ahead or behind. We are all in this together – not as separate countries, but as one world.

And if other countries aren’t pulling their weight, then surely it’s all the more reason for us to do as much as we can to save our beautiful world from burning around us, rather than relaxing our own targets.

Sunak has said that he is trying to save households thousands of pounds by delaying green pledges – but businesses and environmental experts have said his plans could simply cost consumers more in the long run.

I think, if his plans go ahead, it’s our children who are going to be paying. And it will be a horrifying price.

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