What you need to know:
- Children’s voice on climate change need to be heard far and wide.
- Children-centred preparedness, responses and strategies will preserve gains made over the years to promote child survival and development
Children are the most vulnerable group to climate change, which has a strong potential to, directly and indirectly, adversely affect various human rights, including those of children.
Unicef asserts that climate change undermines children’s most basic rights, putting their survival and wellbeing in danger.
However, the “Peoples Climate Votes” report published last week shows that child protection against climate is not among the popular topics. Neither is it among the most popular policies. The survey, by UNDP and Oxford University, is the largest ever on climate change public opinion.
Yet this demographic represents 30 per cent of the world’s population, according Unicef data. Kenya has more than 20 million children, or over 38 per cent of the population.
Human rights are intrinsic, inalienable and universal. Children’s voice on climate change need to be heard far and wide. As climate change actors, their involvement in the decision-making on planning, mitigation and adaptation is pivotal.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) highlights rights that must be realised for children to develop to their full potential. It affirms that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.
Human rights treaty
Children's rights to participate in decisions that affect them are also stipulated in this most ratified international human rights treaty.
Children should be aided with sustainable coping mechanisms against climate change effects like drought, water stress, heat stress and air pollution. With such risks, actions and conversations to cushion them need to intensify and feature prominently in policymaking and national action plans.
As global environment ministers convene on Nairobi today to Friday for the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), they must begin to heighten conversations and developing solid actions for their countries on how to strengthen children’s climate change resilience.
The role of governments in this should also be a top agenda at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November. Children-centred preparedness, responses and strategies will preserve gains made over the years to promote child survival and development.
Children and climate change heavily feature in the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Addis Ababa Action Agenda and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Governments should respect, promote and consider children's rights in climate action as emphasised in these global frameworks and agendas.
But children need not be considered as passive stakeholders. Through proper education, involvement and participation in decision-making, they can be mighty agents of change to cushioning them against the effects of climate change. They have the absolute right to live in a decent environment.