More space needed for children’s voices in climate policy conversations, UNICEF says
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More space needed for children’s voices in climate policy conversations, UNICEF says

by Freya Lucas

October 18, 2021

Children are being held back from having genuine engagement in climate policy and processes, despite being the generation that will have the most to lose, according to a coalition of Australia’s leading child-focussed humanitarian organisations.


A collaboration including Save the Children, World Vision International, UNICEF, CERI, Plan International, and ChildFund Alliance outlined the importance of child participation in decisions and summits on climate change, and how the organisers of the UN climate change conference (also known as COP26) and the countries involved in COP can make the climate summit inclusive for all children in a recent paper. 


A COP fit for children sets out the importance of child participation in decisions and summits on climate change.


COP26 comes at a critical moment and must accelerate meaningful action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement to ensure global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. 


Plan International Australia, UNICEF Australia and Save the Children Australia are underscoring the urgency of addressing dangerous climate change, by amplifying the voices of children and the world’s most vulnerable people. 


The organisations have noted that the communities most affected by the climate crisis have contributed the least to it, and often have the fewest resources to adapt and recover from climate disasters.


The groups further note that climate change is fundamentally a human and child rights issue. It poses an unprecedented threat to the health, education, development, survival and future potential of children across the world. 


Yet, children and young people are also at the forefront of climate action and have the potential to play a key part in climate solutions. To do so, they need to be able to meaningfully participate in climate processes. 


Improving young people’s participation in climate policy processes must centre on four key areas, the organisations note: 


  • improving access to information on climate policy processes; 
  • delivering climate education and green skills; 
  • sharing opportunities and resources; and, 
  • reducing the gender divide.


“The voices of children and young people – including our nearest neighbours in the Pacific – need to be heard at global events and climate policies and processes. It is critical that they are given the opportunity to participate in these important discussions,” said Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia. 


“We need a meaningful policy to come out of COP26 that includes gender transformative climate change education, so that children and young people are equipped and empowered to take climate action at all levels.”


“Global policy-driving events are generally represented by people in privilege anyway, but COVID-19 and travel restrictions have exacerbated this and made it even harder for young people and civic groups from the vulnerable countries most affected by the climate crisis to attend. Their voices must be elevated and amplified to the decision makers.”


Save the Children’s CEO Paul Ronalds described climate change as a child rights emergency of the highest order. 


“The evidence can’t be any clearer that if nations, including Australia, do not work together to put children at the centre of their climate strategies millions will be at risk of serious harm,”  he said.


To ensure that children have genuine opportunities to participate in future COP processes, they need to be included as part of the official national delegations as a priority, UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart said. 


“If we want them to be the true agents of climate action, then we can’t afford to leave them sitting on the sidelines.” 


To access the paper please see here

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