Today, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child published authoritative guidance to States on what they must do to uphold children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
In the face of the deepening climate crisis, the Committee specified that 196 States that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are responsible not only for protecting children’s rights from immediate harm, but also for foreseeable violations of their rights in the future due to States’ acts — or failure to act — today.
The General Comment No. 26, titled “Children’s Rights and the Environment with a Special Focus on Climate Change”, outlines countermeasures to protect the lives and life perspectives of children. This includes the phase out of coal, oil and natural gas and shifting to renewable energy sources, improving air quality and ensuring access to clean water, transforming industrial agriculture and fisheries to produce healthy and sustainable food, and protecting biodiversity.
Stephan Pohlmann, terre des hommes Germany, said: “This General Comment is a landmark decision and a clear signal of the international community’s commitment to protect the rights of children in the face of the climate crisis.”
Tess Ingram, UNICEF New York, added: “Children have a right to an environment that is clean, healthy and sustainable, and it is the responsibility of governments to ensure that they can enjoy these rights.”
The General Comment No. 26 will be available in September 2023 and child-friendly versions will be published as part of its official launch during the Committee’s forthcoming session in Geneva, Switzerland. More information can be found at childrightsenvironment.org.