The Rights of the Child
“Those who suffer the most, contribute the least” is an oft-used phrase in climate negotiations. This can pertain to residents of small island developing states, indigenous peoples, and children. It conveys the urgent need for those most responsible for the climate crisis to act expeditiously and earnestly to reduce the causes and effects of climate change, in part out of moral obligation to reduce the impacts on the most vulnerable of populations that are least to blame.
On the opening day of the UNFCCC meeting, there was a featured event held by the Presidency of the Conference of Parties (COP) 22 on the Rights of the Child. The event highlighted climate change issues affecting children and emphasized how human rights must be incorporated into climate change policy. Children are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including physical and mental distress, loss of opportunities for education, effects of displacement, loss of traditional knowledge, and increased likelihood of exploitation. The event featured testimony from people directly affected and those working on behalf of children. A video was shown featuring a young woman affected by Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines in November of 2013; she conveyed a heart-wrenching story of the loss of her parents and other family members in the flood waters, and the lack of food, water, sanitation and medication afterwards. This was shown as an example of the effects of increased storm intensity already being felt and projected to increase in the future.
There was a recommendation for all Parties to integrate children’s rights into mitigation and adaptation policy decisions through the UNFCCC and through the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Suggestions were made to ensure that school and health care facilities are built to withstand storms and sea level rise. There was also a plea to empower children to participate in climate change policymaking through education.
This was an important discussion highlighting our responsibility to younger and future generations. That it was a Presidency Event held in the large Plenary Room highlighted its significance.