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Cambridge parent groups challenge Labour on green pledge climbdown

Cambridge parent groups Mothers CAN joined with Parents for Future on Christ’s Pieces on Saturday to call on MP Daniel Zeichner “to stand up for their children’s futures” and bring back Labour’s £28bn “green investment pledge”.

Both organisations are part of national groups responding to “the current and growing threat that the climate crisis presents to children around the globe”.

Hero Tardrew of Mothers CAN Cambridge being interviewed on Christ's Pieces, 9 March 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom
Hero Tardrew of Mothers CAN Cambridge being interviewed on Christ's Pieces, 9 March 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom

Their action came following the Labour party’s decision on February 8 to ditch a pledge to invest £28bn-a-year on environmental projects in a major U-turn following months of uncertainty about the plan. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer confirmed that the pledge, central to Labour’s flagship Green Prosperity Plan, will be drastically scaled back to spend £23.7bn over the course of the next Parliament.

Green campaigners were angered by the move, with Friends of the Earth warning it was “short-sighted” and would cost the country in jobs, investment and high energy bills.

On Christ’s Pieces, campaigners discussed the decision while their children played.

Sara Lightowlers, spokesperson for Cambridge Mother’s CAN, said: “We take action because we can’t afford backtracking and slow movement of investment in a healthy world for our children. We want to be able to look our children in the eye and tell them that we have done our best to ensure them a safe future. Abandoning them to the current trajectory is not an option.”

She added of Cambridge Mothers CAN: “There are 15 people in the group - from Cambridge and the villages in South Cambs.

Mothers Rebellion for Climate Justice on Christ's Pieces . Picture: Keith Heppell
Mothers Rebellion for Climate Justice on Christ's Pieces . Picture: Keith Heppell

“I’ve got two children now aged almost five, and almost three. In 2022 I had a terrible episode of climate anxiety about what the future would be like for them and since that I’ve become more of an activist - but I’ve also become much more hopeful about the future because I feel we can make a difference.

“I joined Cambridge Mothers CAN about 18 months ago. We’re working within the political system to try to bring about sustainable change in local areas - from politicians to schools.

“I’d thought better of the Labour Party to be honest. I thought they had people’s wellbeing and future in mind but they’ve just rowed back on their £28bn green investment pledge. We’re getting postcards written by schoolchildren to send to Daniel Zeichner.

“We’re working with schools to help bring in a more sustainable food offering for children - some are very good, but some are heavy on processed food. We work with ProVeg to make plant-based food more appealing.”

ProVeg International is a non-governmental organisation whose mission is to reduce the consumption of animal products by 50 per cent by 2040, to be replaced by plant-based or cultured alternatives.

The Christ’s Pieces event also includes sister organisation Cambridge Parents for Future, whose spokesperson Vicki Mundy says: “We are the Cambridge and Ely local group, we’ve been running for a year but it’s really ramped up in the last six months... There’s 25 local groups based across the UK.”

The group organises toy swaps and has attended Mill Road Winter Fair and participated in the Mothers’ Rebellion for Climate Justice in November.

Vicki Mundy, Cambridge & Ely Parents for Future
Vicki Mundy, Cambridge & Ely Parents for Future

“We want to see our government do more,” adds Parents for Future co-organiser Jenny Williams. “We need large amounts of investment to be able to proceed [to net zero].

“We want people to be saying that we care about climate change because a lot of politicians think people don’t vote on these issues - that climate change is too abstract. But anyone who votes on climate change needs to make it clear they are voting on green policies and green investments.”

Jenny continues: “Parents for Future are taking action on the climate crisis but also related issues such as human rights and women’s rights - all sorts of rights issues are exacerbated by the climate crisis.

Jenny Williams, Cambridge Parents for Future
Jenny Williams, Cambridge Parents for Future

“In the context of 8 March, International Women’s Day, and 10 March, UK Mother’s Day, we emphasise the fact that women and children are always the first victims of the climate crisis and wars.

“Mothers and their allies across the world unite in a growing movement and demand that countries incorporate children’s right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment into their national legislation and take adequate and just measures to implement it.

“Historically, mothers and caregivers have protected and nurtured the young and the most vulnerable in society. Our role continues today as we speak out to protect and preserve the lives of our children and of all children across our planet, our only home.”

Mr Zeichner told the Cambridge Independent: “Labour’s transformative Green Prosperity Plan will deliver clean power by 2030, take hundreds of pounds off energy bills, create half a million good jobs and get Britain to energy independence. Just last week, I made it clear that Labour will not be allowing bee-killing pesticides to be used in our fields, as the government issued a derogation for the fourth year running, against expert advice.

Hero Tardrew of Mothers CAN Cambridge being interviewed on Christ's Pieces, 9 March 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom
Hero Tardrew of Mothers CAN Cambridge being interviewed on Christ's Pieces, 9 March 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom

“Nationally and locally, Labour has a strong record on climate policy and has unfortunately been let down by others – in Cambridge last year, it was Lib Dem and Green capitulation that led to the abandonment of climate action on local transport that would have reduced emissions and improved air quality.

“We need a government that will take the climate crisis seriously and, with Labour, the UK would take a world-leading role on the environment again.”

The Christ’s Pieces event was part of a global Mother’s Rebellion initiative, with mother’s circles held on Saturday around the world: details here.

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