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300+ British Olympians/Paralympians Sign Open Letter to PM Boris Johnson Urging Green COVID Recovery

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Champions For Earth is a group of mostly British athletes who speak out about the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis and advocate for climate action.

It went big on the climate action front on Wednesday, sending an open letter, signed by 310 Olympians and Paralympians, to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to take the lead on a “Green Recovery” plan for COVID-19. 

 

Champions For Earth’s (C4E) specialty over the two years of its existence has been to publish letters, signed by high profile, (mostly) British athletes, that push for serious action on climate.

Its first effort, a 2018 letter that urged a ban on fracking, garnered the signatures of three Olympians. The Financial Times published it and, according to C4E co-founder and retired British rower Dave Hampton, the piece “was [FT’s] most downloaded letter of the week. So, that put us on the map.”

 

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Dave Hampton (Photo credit: Dave Hampton)

 

Champions For Earth upped its game in 2019, with 19 athletes signing on to a letter, published in The Guardian, that supported the Greta Thunberg-led school strikes.

But these were mere appetizers to today’s main course.

The group showed it had reached an entirely new level on Wednesday with the publication of an open letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that pressed him and his government to lead a “Green Recovery from the COVID Pandemic”. It was signed by a multi-sport and multi-generational roster of 310 British Olympians and Paralympians. Some of the more well-known signatories include:

  • Sir Mo Farah, legendary Gold Medal winner of the 5,000m and 10,000m at both London 2012 and Rio 2016
  • Susie Rodgers MBE, Paralympic Gold Medalist in swimming at Rio 2016
  • Lady Mary Peters, Olympic Gold Medalist in the pentathlon at Munich 1972
  • Hannah Cockroft MBE, five-time Paralympic Gold Medalist in track and field at London 2012 and Rio 2016

 

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Mo Farah celebrates after winning the 5,000 meters at the London 2012 Olympics (Photo credit: The Independent)

 

Several EcoAthletes Champions have signed on as well, including 2016 Olympic sailing Gold Medalist Hannah Mills, Paralympic medal-winning sailor Alexandra Rickham, and 2020 Team GB rower Melissa Wilson.

The latter is also a member, along with the aforementioned Dave Hampton, of the four-person Champions For Earth leadership team. They, along with Co-founder Etienne Stott (Olympic kayaking Gold Medalist at London 2012) and New Zealand’s Katie Rood (Lewes F.C.), wrote the letter and reached out to the athletes in a campaign to get a significant number of signatures.

At 310 — 15 times the number who signed the Thunberg letter — certainly qualifies as significant.

Non-athletes from Great Britain and all over the world are encouraged to add their voices by signing the letter. Click here to read it, see the list of signatories and sign it yourself. To do so, you need to scroll down to the bottom of the page.

And you can read the letter here:

To The Right Honorable Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

A Green Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic

If it were not for the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s hearts and minds would have been captured this summer by the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games: events that have “Passing on Legacy for the Future” as part of their core mission.

Yet the years where that Legacy will unfold are under acute threat from climate change.

In February this year, you confirmed that “there can be no greater responsibility than protecting our planet, and no mission that a Global Britain is prouder to serve”. With the COP26 and G7 presidencies next year, the UK has a golden opportunity to show international leadership on the most important issue facing humankind.

We can sit timidly in the pack, pretending that we have no role to play in the unfolding race. Or, like the athletes we would have watched this summer, we can race to win.

We urge your Government to act consistently with the recognised need for “urgent action”, by developing a truly Green approach to recovery from the pandemic. In championing this approach, the UK can take confidence from the last months, which have demonstrated the incredible capacity our society has to make huge alterations from “business as usual” in order to protect one another. The economic benefits of pursuing a Green recovery have also received emphatic endorsement from the Committee on Climate Change, the present and former Governors of the Bank of England, and research from Oxford University.  

At the closing ceremony of the London Olympics 2012, Seb Coe (1980 and 1984 Olympic Champion) said:

“One day we will tell our children and our grandchildren, that when our time came, we did it right.”

As present and former athletes, we urge you and your Government to bring new truth to these words, leading the way out of the pandemic whilst forging the ultimate Legacy: a healthy, safe Earth for all.

Yours sincerely, Champions for Earth

Supported by three hundred GB Olympians and Paralympians

 

GSB’s Take: Getting 310 British Olympians and Paralympians, including the legendary Mo Farah, to sign on to an open letter that urges Boris Johnson and his Tory government to enact a “Green approach to recovery from the pandemic” is a tribute to the signatories and a massive accomplishment on the part of Champions for Earth.

It also is a smart approach to link recovery from the pandemic to the climate crisis because 1) it elevates the profile of climate during a time when recovery from the coronavirus is top-of-mind, and 2) the two are inextricably linked. Pandemics are likely to spread faster and stronger in a warming world.

Now, it is incumbent on this growing “Champions for Earth Brigade” to use the letter to continue to press Johnson and team to take substantive climate action. One important step would be to bring forth meaningful climate legislation in the House of Commons. Carbon pricing and green jobs programs are two ideas from your trusted GreenSportsBlogger on the other side of the pond. There are plenty of others.

Thank you for “doing it right”.

 


 

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