CRIN’s take on the climate decision

Date: 16th December 2021
Category: Basic Health and Welfare

two children playing in nature

Child Rights International Network (CRIN) has published its perspective on the recent decisions made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its first climate change case.

The case involved a petition filed by 16 children from 12 countries against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey in 2019.

The children claimed that these five countries, which were historic emitters and had failed to take necessary preventive measures to protect and fulfil children’s rights to life, health, and culture. The children also argued that the climate crisis is not an abstract future threat and that the 1.1°C increase in global average temperature since pre-industrial times has already caused devastating heat waves, fostering the spread of infectious diseases, forest fires, extreme weather patterns, floods, and sea-level rise.

The Committee concluded that a sufficient causal link had been established between the harm alleged by the 16 children and the acts or omissions of the five States and that the children had sufficiently justified that the harm that they had personally suffered was significant.

The Committee was, however, unable to adjudicate on whether the States parties in this specific case had violated their obligations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As petitions are only admissible after the complainants have taken the claim to the national courts and already exhausted legal remedies that may be available and effective in the countries concerned before bringing their complaint to the Committee.

CRIN acknowledged that children and young people who brought the complaint did not get the result that they were striving for. However, the organisation emphasises that the climate case decisions aren’t a clear win or loss. Positively and for the first time, the UN Committee was clear that States can be responsible for climate harm that happens beyond their borders, as well as clearly setting out what any future claimants on climate change must prove to be successful.  If anything, these decisions have shown the role that the UN Committee can play and that the Committee can and must be a meaningful part of these decisions.