Climate change inaction violates children’s rights, says Greta Thunberg and other young activists
16 activists between the ages of 8 and 17 filed a landmark complaint to the United Nations against major world economies
Sep 24, 2019
The United Nations Climate Change summit, in which world leaders convened to discuss the world’s environmental crisis and their plans to stop it and is part of the United Nations General Assembly, has just taken place. It was pretty disappointing. There was “a lot of talk about action,” notes The Verge, citing World Resources Institute president Andrew Steer: “While countries were expected to come to the Summit to announce that they would enhance their climate ambition, most of the major economies fell woefully short.”
Other climate change experts concurred. “The ball they are moving forward is a ball of promises,” says MIT’s Joint Center for Global Change co-director John Reilly. World Resources Institute international climate chief also pointed out that while smaller countries are doing their part to end climate change, the world’s biggest polluters have not stepped up to the plate.
This is exactly the kind of inaction that 16 child activists (among these young faces include Greta Thunberg) are repealing in a landmark complaint filed with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. “Failure to tackle the climate crisis constitutes a violation of child rights,” says the Unicef’s press release.
Greta Thunberg had some passionate words to say before the filing: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
She added: “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”
Along with Thunberg, the other young activists also had their say. “Carl Smith, a member of the indigenous Yupiaq tribe who lives in Akiak, Alaska, explained how warming has imperiled the subsistence hunting and fishing that his community depends on,” writes CNN, quoting him, “I think they’re acting slowly because they don’t want to lose money. And I think they should go see what [climate change] is doing to little villages and cities.”
Just a reminder: children’s rights and climate change groups have long since pointed out how the crisis disproportionately puts children in danger. “Climate change mainly impacts vulnerable children,” reads one report by Unicef from 2016. “The effects of climate change —diseases, droughts and floods that destroy food sources and livelihoods—further exacerbated risks to children and deepened deprivation for millions.”
The countries that the complaint is specifically targeting are Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey. However, this doesn’t mean that other top emitters are absolved. CNN also notes that countries like United States and China “cannot be held in violation because [they have] not ratified the part of the [United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights] treaty that allows children to seek justice for potential violations.” It’s a pretty sneaky way to get away with it.
The activists also stated that they are not looking for monetary compensation, if that’s what you’re wondering. Their only compensation? For the mentioned countries to start taking real action by “adjusting their climate change goals and work with other nations to address the crisis.”
While it’s great to see activists this young doing their best to pressure countries into action, it’s also deeply sobering that they have to resort to this. Step up, world leaders. The kids are showing you up.
Photo courtesy of Bob Blob on Unsplash
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