Children’s rights can help create a cleaner and healthier planet.
Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification clearly pose a threat to children’s health and even their right to life. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization recently warned of persistent and alarming trends in these four key indicators of the climate change, which will have serious impacts on children in the coming decades.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child, made up of 18 experts, monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child in each of the 196 signatory countries. For this purpose, reports from UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), governments and non-profit organizations are collected and recommendations for improvements are derived from them.
In addition, general opinions are drawn up on issues relating to the rights of children and young people. In these statements he emphasized taking the child’s perspective into account. UNICEF has warned that climate change represents a form of systemic violence against all children as it can cause social divisions between communities and families.
They are concerned about the impact of natural disasters, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, which in turn have tragic consequences for agriculture, access to clean water and nutrition. Ultimately, these consequences represent a violation of the right to health.
Alarming figures that violate children’s rights
In fact, the damning August 2021 report concluded that frightening numbers were reached: 815 million children were exposed to lead pollution, 820 million children were exposed to heat pollution, 920 million children were exposed to water shortages, and 1 billion children were exposed to severe air pollution.
The World Health Organization, for its part, warned in 2017 that 1.7 million children die every year from avoidable environmental influences. This makes it the most common cause of death in young children and accounts for more than a quarter of deaths in children under 5 years of age.
Answers from more than 16,000 children
In view of these reports, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has decided to draw up a general commentary on the rights of the child and the environment, with particular reference to climate change, entitled The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has committed to developing a new General Commentary on the rights of the child and the environment, with particular attention to climate change.
In two consultation periods (March 31 to June 30, 2022 and November 15, 2022 to February 15, 2023), they received 16,331 direct responses from children and young people from 121 countries. These demands were then summarized into six general lines:
- Ensure that all children have access to a clean and healthy environment.
- Listen to your children and take their opinions seriously. Respect their role as key players in efforts to protect the environment.
- Make government and corporate actions clear and transparent.
- Promoting international cooperation.
- Expand and improve ecological awareness and ecological education.
- Create spaces to participate, exchange ideas and find solutions.
This document emphasizes shared responsibility. Particular emphasis is placed on the need to create universal standards that enable governments to protect children’s rights, which are being undermined by the climate crisis, the destruction of biodiversity and the pollution of water, air and land.
After all, children have the same rights as everyone else. They are the driving force of social engagement and play a very proactive role in the transformation of the environment.
It is important that countries enact laws and policies with sufficient funding and transparency to restore these rights and protect them from abuse by outside forces, including private companies. They must also ensure the restoration and protection of biodiversity.
Children have the right to a clean environment and countries have a duty to ensure this right. Not only for those already in the world, but also for the future inhabitants of the planet who deserve a world where their rights are truly respected.
This article was written by Carlos Villagrasa Alcaide, Professor of Civil Law at the University of Barcelona. It is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article
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