Children’s rights must be at the heart of the Paris climate agreement

Categories: Basic Health and Welfare, General measures of implementation, Right to life and survival and development

8th December 2015

Climate-related disaster and changing weather patterns increase the risk of malnutrition, vector-borne diseases such as malaria, and water and food-borne diarrhoea. According to the World Health Organisation, children suffer a much greater burden of these climate-related diseases than adults. Yet despite rhetoric about protecting our planet for future generations, children and their rights have been largely absent from COP21 negotiations.

Loss of family livelihoods and migration following these events can also leave children exposed to the dangers of child-trafficking and labour, or other forms of exploitation, violence and abuse. And because of the unique period of development that childhood represents, these types of physical and psychological trauma have more severe and lasting effects for children than adults.

For all the rhetoric from world leaders on protecting the planet for our children and future generations, consideration of children has been conspicuously absent from international climate negotiations. They are mentioned just once in the current draft text of the Paris climate agreement.

The UN climate talks have been slow to recognise the relationship between climate change and human rights, representing a strange disconnect between this process and other commitments the international community has signed up to.

The SDGs - or global goals - recognise that tackling climate change will be essential for advancing poverty alleviation and human development, and firmly ground these goals in the objective of realising the human rights of all.

It will be impossible to improve the lives of the poorest and most marginalised children and communities - and to prevent millions more from falling into poverty - if their rights are undermined by catastrophic climate change. The Human Rights Council has recognised this in several resolutions, along with UN human rights experts who have consistently urged governments to place human rights at the core of the climate change agreement.

Joining the dots between countries' climate policies and actions, and their existing human rights obligations and commitments, can inform and strengthen efforts to tackle climate change.

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