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The Clean Air Parents' Network visited parliament to lobby for change

Manchester mum-of-two Birgitte was worried sick about the lack of action to combat her city’s dangerous air pollution. So, she went to parliament to get the country’s leaders to act.

I’m a mum of 2 gorgeous girls and throughout my life I’ve tried to live in a sustainable way. But last October I read a report on global warming that hit me like a hammer, and it became clear just how much needs to change.

The announcement we had just 12 years to drastically cut carbon emissions sent me into a panic. I started losing sleep and waking up anxious. I had an overwhelming sense of grief and alarm about the kind of world I had brought my two precious girls into.

I "woke up"

That’s when I “woke up”. I woke up to the damage we’re doing to our natural environment, our wildlife and ultimately, to ourselves. I became aware of the sheer volume of traffic on our roads, the stench of the fumes and the volume of waste we create every day. At the same time, it sparked a fierce need to protect our wildlife, our natural environment, our seas, our air, and of course my children’s – and my own - lung health.

Birgitte and her friends arrive at Parliament Square

So, I decided to act. As well flying and driving less, and avoiding meat and dairy among other things, I also wanted to join in with those telling our government how much this matters. Part of this was joining the Clean Air Parents' Network, and through the network I found out about The Time Is Now (TTIN) day at parliament.

The TTIN mass lobby was an important way of letting my MP, Jeff Smith, and others across government know this really matters to us. It was brilliantly organised by the Climate Coalition and I was very grateful to be able to attend.

Speaking to my MP

Arriving on the day by train then tube, I made my way along the embankment and was thrilled to see the crowds who had travelled to meet their MPs. There were thousands of people of all ages lining both sides of the Thames. In the lobby we had the chance to chat to some of the organisations involved and the people who’d worked so hard to ensure the event was a success.

At 2pm we all gathered in anticipation in our designated zones. There were more than 20 of us from Jeff’s constituency and, as requested by the organisers, we all joined in making as much noise as possible. When Jeff arrived, we introduced ourselves and he thanked us for coming, explaining he wanted to hear from us.

The group raised many issues with Jeff, from the expansion of Heathrow to moving away from fossil fuels. I was particularly interested in talking to him about the illegal air pollution levels in Manchester, which are not only contributing to climate change but affecting public health right now. He took lots of notes, listened to us and agreed he would share our concerns with Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham.

We also discussed how important it was for Jeff to use his influence and raise the issue of the climate emergency at every opportunity. After an hour and a half our meeting drew to a close, and Jeff agreed we should all meet again in Manchester to get updates on progress.

I look forward to seeing bold initiatives from Jeff and other leaders. I hope over the coming months we’ll see braver action on air pollution and climate change, so we can preserve our environment and clean up our air for future generations.

Inspired to fight for change? Join the Clean Air Parents' Network

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26 July 2019