Statement: Impact of climate change on children’s rights

In a statement to Young Women Scotland, Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said: “Children and young people have consistently raised climate justice as one of their biggest human rights concerns. They have shown incredible leadership, challenging adults to do better and have acted as human rights defenders across Scotland and internationally. They have led climate justice movements in the streets, for example during school strikes, online, and in court. 

“An important part of our work is ensuring that young human rights defenders have the support, encouragement and protection that they need to fight for the rights of all of us. The human rights implications of Covid has rightly focussed attention over the last 18 months, but the climate crisis has not gone away and children have raised concerns that climate justice has been forgotten. 

“Climate change disproportionately affects children’s human rights around the world – including here in the UK. 

“The rights contained in the 54 articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are interdependent. As such, climate change inherently affects a broad range of children’s rights and globally girls are more likely to be affected. The right to health, the right to education, the right to play, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to culture are just some of the rights impacted. 

“In Scotland, increased flooding causes damage to communities. Hotter, drier summers can affect health. Pollution around schools can affect air quality which again poses a risk to health. These are just a few examples, but it is important to remember that climate justice intersects with multiple priority human rights issues for children in Scotland, including poverty, food insecurity, and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Young human rights defenders and environmental activists are at the forefront of the demand for change. Their rights to peaceful assembly and association alongside their rights to expression, participation and information must be safeguarded ahead of the COP26 conference to be held in Glasgow in November. It is essential that children and young people are empowered to participate and engage in their right to peaceful protest, insofar as any future possible Covid-19 restrictions allow.  

“There must be no reprisals or sanctions for children who peacefully protest at the event and schools should support children to participate in the opportunities COP26 afford them. They should be engaged meaningfully in decisions and processes affecting them. This applies to the build-up and planning of COP26 as well as the actual event itself. 

“It is vital that we look beyond COP26. As we progress through and out of the  pandemic, climate justice must be at the heart of our recovery. The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children will be focusing on this and ensuring young human rights defenders like the European Network of Young Advisers are able to continue to lead and to challenge all those in power to do more.” 

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