How the children of global warming see the world, 12 years later | Cop26

They enter their teenage years and aspire to make positive changes when they grow up. But the dreams of these three children, each born in different corners of the world in the weeks leading up to the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, are marred by concerns about how global warming might shape their futures.

After their births, and again in 2015 before the Paris climate summit, the Observer heard the families of Maria, Olomaina and Denislania explain how they were dealing with the impacts of climate change.

Now, as the UK prepares to welcome the last Climate Summit, Cop26, Glasgow, they describe in the reports collected by the Cafod charity what the stakes are if world leaders fail to honor their latest commitments.

The 2015 Paris Agreement define a global framework to limit the increase in global average temperature to a maximum of 1.5 ° C. But progress has been slow and global emissions continue to rise.

It is therefore essential that Cop26 put pressure on the major economies to commit to more ambitious climate plans in order to keep their commitment on the right track.

The next summit must also deliver the financial aid pledged to tackle the climate emergency, ensuring that the money reaches even the most remote communities such as Maria, Olomaina and Denislania.

Maria Mallik, Bangladesh

Rickshaw driver Tayab and his wife Majeda have had to make tough decisions about their children’s future amid financial hardship exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

Maria Mallik with her parents Tayab and Majeda. Photograph: Shohag-Sarkar / Nazmul Shanji / Cafod

Their personal sacrifices kept Maria, now 13, in school in the Barguna district of Bangladesh. She is a bright and positive teenager who dreams of becoming a teacher. She says, “I get up and read Arabic before school. Then I help my mother with household chores before studying at night.

Her siblings are less fortunate. A sister worked from the age of 11 in a garment factory in Dhaka, while her 14-year-old brother works on a freighter for the equivalent of £ 1.40 a day.

Maria’s parents hope to keep their youngest daughter in school, but their lives are marred by rising sea levels and extreme temperatures. Living near the Payra River in lowlands means their home is often flooded. Maria says: “From April to September it rains a lot. Our house was torn and broken, and rainwater fell through the roof. Tayab says the floods caused by tides and cyclones are also causing them financial ruin and mental anguish. Salt water from the sea damages crops and contaminates drinking water from a nearby well, frequently causing illnesses in her children.

Denislania da Silva, Brazil

Denislania’s birth came in the midst of a victory for the indigenous Macuxi people to which she belongs. In 2009, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled in their favor following a long-standing dispute with farmers who wanted to turn the marshes in the Surumu region into rice fields.

Denislania da Silva, Brazil
Denislania da Silva, Brazil, in 2015. “I love nature where I live,” she says today. Photography: CAFOD

This means that today, 13-year-old Denislania and her siblings continue to hunt and fish in the community of Barro, which depends on local rivers and forests for her livelihood.

“I like to swim in the Surumu River and walk in the hills,” she says. “I love the nature where I live.

However, the savannah on which they depend is threatened by climate change. In 2015, her mother, Elisa, was extremely concerned about the consistently dry weather. Fortunately, over the past year, the weather has been more stable, she said. But other parts of Roraima state have recently been hit by the worst flooding since the records began 100 years ago.

As proposed legislation in Brazil continues to threaten the ancestral lands of thousands of indigenous communities, as well as the environment, Denislania, who hopes to become a lawyer, calls on world leaders to protect their ancestral lands. “They must protect the planet,” she insists.

Olomaina Mutonka, Kenya

Olomaina Mutonka from Kenya earlier in 2021.
Olomaina Mutonka, from Kenya. His mother wants him to become a lawyer. Photography: Alex Kamweru / Alex Kamweru / Cafod

Noomirisho Mutonka named his son Olomaina – which means “blessing” in Maasai – hoping he would bring prosperity. But since her birth in 2009, her family has been stuck in a cycle of poverty caused by continuous droughts. Over the years they have owned 284 animals, but this has shrunk to just a few goats and a cow.

Climate change in the semi-arid region south of Nairobi has caused growing concern in Noomirosho. “Even if the rains come, it rains for a very short time and in no time at all, the grass is dry and the cattle are dying.”

They tried to adapt with limited success. “We tried to collect rainwater, dig more boreholes and build small water tanks,” Noomirosho explains. “We tried to produce some agriculture but our crops failed due to lack of rain.”

Despite the difficulties, she ensures that Olomina has access to education. “I want my son to become a lawyer and represent the community,” says Noomirosho.

She calls on world leaders to consider her future when they meet next month. “Climate change makes life difficult for us, especially the lack of water. If the leaders can make water available or bring it closer to the people, that would be good. They should also look for ways to help with the education of children.

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