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Professor Gail Whiteman

Exeter academic among high-profile parents calling for low carbon COVID-19 recovery

Only a low carbon COVID-19 recovery will protect against climate catastrophe and create a better world for our children, argues an open letter to the Prime Minister signed by high-profile parents including Gail Whiteman, Professor of Sustainable Business at the University of Exeter Business School.

It was published on Sunday as parents gathered outside Downing Street with a mini-windfarm created from 25 three metre-high handheld bamboo turbines, signifying the low-carbon recovery they say is required “to create jobs for our children today and help ensure a safe climate tomorrow”.

The letter, which is also signed by World Health Organisation Ambassador Rosamund Kissi-Deborah, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and actors Julie Walters and Lily Cole, urges the government not to “build our way out of one disaster by supercharging the next”.

It warns that allowing climate emissions to rebound to pre-pandemic levels will have “catastrophic consequences for our children’s lives and livelihoods” with those from disadvantaged backgrounds hardest hit, and points to research that shows investing in a low carbon recovery will create more and better jobs than rebuilding a fossil fuel economy.

“As a scientist and parent, I know that the global risks from climate change are the biggest threat to our children’s future. We must ensure that the UK government’s COVID-19 recovery plans are low carbon compliant – or risk everything we have strived for,” said Professor Whiteman, who joined Exeter’s Business School this month.

The letter was co-ordinated by Mothers Rise Up and Parents for Future UK, two parent-led campaign groups that are demanding low-carbon investment.

The campaigners point out that the government’s £3 billion green recovery package is a fraction of the £36 billion being invested by Germany and argue that hundreds of thousands more good jobs could be rapidly created by boosting investment in energy efficiency, public transport, renewable energy, restoring nature and a repair economy.

Rosamund Kissi-Deborah, World Health Organisation ambassador, said: “Air pollution kills 40,000 people in the UK every year and new research shows that the coronavirus is more deadly in areas of high air pollution. Ensuring every child, woman and man in the UK has clean air to breathe should be a government priority for the sake of our health, our economy and our climate.” 

Date: 27 July 2020