Why COP27 must place the rights of children and future generations at the heart of negotiations

The United Nations Climate Conference is a chance for world leaders to tackle the climate emergency differently – with children’s rights, views, and recommendations at the heart of bold decisions. As the world turns its attention to COP27, which begins on Sunday 6 November, it is more important than ever that children – and their right to grow up in clean, healthy, and safe environments – are at the heart of negotiations. The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. Every day, millions of children are experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change across their communities. If no specific prevention and redress measures are taken soon, children themselves expect that this is only going to get worse in their lifetime and for future generations.

Valérie Ceccherini, Secretary General of Terre des Hommes International Federation said: “By incorporating children’s rights into climate action, decision-makers can accelerate climate action while reaching the furthest left behind first. Our Policy Brief* for COP27 includes a clear pathway for Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to achieve this important goal. We call for a holistic approach to ensure child-sensitive climate action: a Children’s Action Plan with concrete steps to be taken in all relevant policy areas, including climate finance, adaptation and action for climate empowerment.”

COP27 is a crucial opportunity to take the bold action needed to secure the rights of children today, and those of future generations. The recognition and the urgency to respect children’s environmental rights are being further stressed by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is currently developing a General Comment on “Children’s Rights and the Environment with a Special Focus on Climate Change” (General Comment No. 26). The multidimensional nature of the climate crisis carries consequences for all areas of children’s rights. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that the full spectrum of children’s rights are fulfilled in actions to prevent and address the climate crisis, including children’s rights to express their views and to be taken seriously.

Children themselves are contributing to the development of this General Comment, an interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – the most widely ratified and legally binding international UN treaty. Terre des Hommes is a key partner in the process as it works with thirteen Child Advisors aged 11 to 17, who are advising on designing a broad consultation process, which has already ensured the inclusion of the views and perspectives of 7,416 children from 103 countries.

The COP can learn from this child-centered process and ensure mechanisms and spaces are in place for children’s views and calls to be listened to and acted upon by world leaders in their negotiations on climate action. This COP27 must stand with children worldwide and call for the realisation of their rights: intergenerational equity should be at the heart of its outcomes. Sixteen-year-old climate activist, Āniva, from the Pacific Islands is one of the Child Advisors for General Comment No.26 and one of 4 children supported by Terre des Hommes participating in COP27. She states:

“It is crucial that children and young people attend COP27 and are heard in climate spaces because we are the future of our planet. We are the ones who will live with the consequences of decisions, either action or inaction, that are made today. The future decision-makers, leaders, scientists and community workers who will continue to face the climate crisis and need to find solutions. It would be unfair and short-sighted to exclude young people from these vital conversations that determine our future and the future of our world. Children and young people offer different perspectives, solutions and ideas that are crucial in these decision-making processes and must be heard.”

* As a member of Child Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI), Terre des Hommes has contributed to and endorsed a Policy Brief for COP27 negotiators about a child rights-based approach to climate action: www.ceri-coalition.org/child-rights-into-climate-action.

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