Being from an Indian family I know the value of family, the strength we lend each other, and the support we offer to our brothers and sisters, parents and cousins. Family is non-negotiable for us, it makes us who we are and stays with us from birth to death. Many of the festivals that define the year recognise the importance of family, from Vasant Panchami to Diwali it is inbuilt that we all, of all faiths, celebrate our relations and our loved ones. With Cyclone Fani striking India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka last week we saw the immense strength of the weather to change our world, and in a changing world the only constant is the strength of our families, bound together.
This Wednesday (15 May) marks the 2019 International Day of the Family, a United Nations backed day to recognise the family as the basic unit of society and provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them. This year the theme is Families and Climate Action, focussing on Sustainable Development Goal 13.
Across the world thousands of children have been going on climate strike for months now, inspired by the Swedish teenage Greta Thunberg, setting aside Friday as a day to raise awareness of their parent’s generation’s lack of action on climate change. What could be closer to the heart of a family that ensuring the world will be fit for our children and our grandchildren. Action on the environment has been too slow and too conservative, we need to act, and we have to act or face being the generation that destroyed the planet. I was moved to see the children in Parliament Square, but not just children, they were accompanied by parents and grandparents, desperate to end the damage we continue to inflict upon the world.
So today represents the best opportunity to reflect on our lives, on the role we play in society and on how our behaviour impacts upon our family. Over the next five years the European Union has pledged to spend 25% of its budget on climate change mitigation, that is an amazing £2.1 Billion, but it won’t be enough globally. We need concerted action around the globe to protect families from climate change. Just in the UK a temperature rise of 1.5°C will result in millions of homes being made uninhabitable, and a change in climate that will make us more like the south of France, killing species up and down the nation and threatening the health of the whole country.
As a politician, but also as a grandfather, I want to see change. I want to know that the world I leave behind is better than the one I inherited. Maybe the real message of the International Day of the Family shouldn’t just be about our own family, however important it may be, but instead should be about our global family and our billions of sons, daughters, brothers and sisters around the world we never meet, never take anything from or give anything to. Maybe the only thing we can give to the billions of unborn nieces and nephews is to leave them a world with promise and hope, a globe with a climate not in catastrophe but in equilibrium where we respect the natural value of nature.