UN Child Rights Body wants governments to protect environmental rights for children

In the din of global politics over the Russia-Ukraine war and the China-Taiwan tensions, an important news item on climate change and children got buried in the media. On August 28 this year, the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child said that climate change is impacting children's health, lives and development. It called upon governments to take action to protect boys and girls from a deepening climate change crisis.

(Rahul kumar)

This is the first time that the UN committee has stressed upon universal children’s rights such as the right to life, survival and development, and the right to health. It clearly wants governments to act upon the climate emergency, collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution with a view of protecting the future of children.

Even though children have their rights defined under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects their rights to life, physical and mental health, education, housing drinking water and sanitation, their rights to protection from the debilitating impacts of climate change had not been defined so elaborately till now.

Emphasising upon children's rights to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, the UN Child Rights Committee, formally known as General Comment No-26, said that States shall protect children from environmental backsliding that occurs due to business activities. It also stressed upon action by business and commercial entities to ensure that they undertake due diligence regarding children’s rights and environment.

General Comment No-26 says that, “the 196 States that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Children are urged to take immediate action including organizing the phase out of coal, oil and natural gas and shifting to renewable energy sources, improving air quality and ensuring access to clean water, transforming industrial agriculture and fisheries to produce healthy and sustainable food, and protecting biodiversity.”

One of the major highlights of the report is that it had a large level of participation from children across the world.

It has been drafted with help from children who provided 16,331 contributions from 121 countries. Human rights organisations, environmental experts, international bodies, national governments and 12 young climate change advisors. Children were involved in the process of drafting the report as they are the most vulnerable yet have little voice or say in the protection of their rights. 

It has been widely known for some time now that air and water pollution have long-lasting impacts on the development of the brain and long-term health of children. Also, children are most vulnerable to the fast-spread of climate change that shows no signs of abating despite regular global debates. 

Reporting on the UN report, the BBC highlighted how climate change impacts include extreme weather problems like heatwaves, droughts and floods as well as melting of glaciers leading to sea-level rise. 

Climate change effects include warming oceans, extraordinarily high temperatures, wildfires across continents, severe storms all of which will further lead to deterioration of food and agricultural systems, health as well as wildlife. 

Written By:

Rahul Kumar

Rahul Kumar is a senior Delhi-based journalist and development communications professional with a wide experience in news reporting, feature writing and editing for mainstream newspapers and magazines. He is a recipient of numerous fellowships by international organisations including Reuters, Chevening Scholarships and Radio Netherlands. He has worked in the alternative and online media, where he developed media and communication strategies and co-led teams of journalists covering international development conferences. He has executed numerous media and communication projects for various organisations. He loves to photograph urban and social issues and has organised several photo-exhibitions in Delhi. His other loves are yoga, long walks and cycling.

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