The impact of climate on children

On June 14, on the side of the 35th session of the Human Rights Council, Franciscans International – represented by its Advocacy Deputy Director, Mr Budi Tjahjono-the Geneva Climate Change Consultation Group (GeCCco) and other organisations held an event discussing the impact of climate change on the rights of the child.

Within this context, Mr Benjamin Schachter, a Human Rights Officer with the Office of The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) presented a study focusing on the relationship between climate change and the enjoyment of the rights of the child.

The Analytical Study, commissioned by the Human Rights Council Resolution 32/33, found that “Children are disproportionately impacted by climate change due to their unique metabolism, physiology and developmental needs”. It also highlighted how “the negative impacts of climate change, including the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, changing precipitation patterns, food and water shortages, and the increased transmission of communicable diseases, threaten the enjoyment by children of their rights to health, life, food, water and sanitation, education, housing, culture, and development, among others”.

As for other categories of people, climate change heightens existing social and economic inequalities especially for those more vulnerable-like young children, children on the move, alone, ill or with disabilities.

The study also put forward some recommendations. For example, it suggested to ensure that children’s rights considerations are integrated in climate, disaster risk reduction and development policies and actions, as well as to empower children to participate in climate policymaking. The recommendations also pointed out the need to collect disaggregated data on climate change and children’s rights, and to mobilise adequate resources to fund effective climate action and remedies that benefit children.

Ms Mirela Shuteriqi, Communications Specialist at UNICEF Office in Geneva, showed her support for the study and findings stressing the duty we have, as international community, to address this issue. She also highlighted several UNICEF projects, such as in Zambia, where youth engagement was effectively supported and 200 children acted as climate change ambassadors.

Mr Sébastien Duyck, Senior Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), also concurred with the findings highlighting the overall lack of discussion on the topic at the UNFCCC level and urged states to increase their ambition in terms of mitigation action.

Mr Yves Lador, representative of Earthjustice in Geneva, concluded the debate underscoring the importance of a truly holistic approach in dealing with climate-related issues.