Climate change is fundamentally a global problem. It is a phenomenon that affects the most vulnerable in the society, and one of the most vulnerable populations of the world is the population of children. Children have inherited a problem that is inherently not of their making. One of the rights of children, is the right to a healthy environment and as a result of the rapid rate of climate change, it is becoming increasingly difficult if not impossible to uphold that right.
Children are more vulnerable to climate and environmental shocks than adults for a number of reasons:
- They are less likely to withstand the physical strain posed by climate change shocks like flood, droughts, severe weather and heat waves.
- Physiologically they are less able to cope with exposure to toxic substances and air pollution.
- They are more prone to deaths from diseases exacerbated by climate change such as malaria and dengue.
- They are also prone to mental and emotional stress due to displacement from their homes due to flood or other factors.
- Any deprivation as a result of climate change and environmental degradation can result to a lifetime of lost opportunity
- Also, children’s lack of access to essential services, such as health, nutrition and education makes the more susceptible.
Children are faced with a water crisis, a health crisis, an education crisis, a protection crisis and a participation crisis. It is threatening children’s very survival and also infringing on children’s rights – as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
It is important to adopt climate adaptation and mitigating measures, which will also boost economic growth.
- Build resilience and reduce exposure for children.
- Implementing nature based solutions. Examples: wetland restoration, mangroves, marshes ad oyster reefs, to help prevent coastal erosion as a result of sea level rise.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Provide children with climate education and green skills, critical for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change.
- Include young people in climate decision making, either nationally, internationally or regionally.
We need to focus on addressing the needs of children more at risk from climate change. We need to provide children and young people the resources they need and give them the best possible chance to address a crisis that we have bestowed upon them. Climate justice for children will mean to invest in areas that will protect them and help them adapt to the climate crisis. We need to act right by them, provide justice and fairness to a problem they had no hand in creating but which will greatly impact their lives.
By Farydah Ahmed