27 September 2021 - Zambia

Why children's voices are key at COP 26

Meet Justina, 15-year old child activist from Zambia

The climate crisis is having a devastating impact on the world, and is leading to severe consequences for current and future generations of children, and their rights. Children who are already suffering from discrimination and inequality are being impacted worst, making existing challenges that they face much worse, and creating new barriers preventing their rights being met. 

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children have the right to be heard and to participate in decisions that affect them – but this right is rarely met.

Even though the climate crisis is a child rights issue that affects children first and worst, children’s voices and demands are rarely heard in climate discussions and decisions at all levels.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed children’s voices even further out of climate discussions and decisions. Children have been prevented from organising demonstrations and protests to share their concerns and demands publicly, and have been unable to join events and summits. With the rise in COVID cases in some regions, the continuation of travel restrictions, and vaccine inequity, the right of children to participate is still not being realized.

In November, leaders from around the world will be gathering at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 climate conference in Glasgow, UK, to discuss what needs to be done to tackle the climate crisis. The organisers of COP 26 and governments around the world have the opportunity to make this COP the most inclusive for children’s participation ever, including the voices of children from around the world to ensure that their experiences, views and demands inform climate policies.

In our new policy paper, A COP Fit For Children: How to support children’s participation, we set out how children can actively participate and have their voices heard before, during, and after COP, and how this can be ensured at COP 26.

Children have the most to lose by the impacts of climate crisis, but have done nothing to contribute.

We spoke to Justina, a 15 year old girl from Zambia, about why it is so important that adults listen to and recognise children as peers and partners in identifying solutions to the climate crisis…

I am a child advocate who is so passionate about speaking out for children’s rights. I am a member of the children support group in my community.

I would define child participation as, giving children a platform to speak on things that affect them, and taking part in decision-making and policy making processes. It is my desire that one day the government would take children’s voices seriously and implement things children address.

Child participation is very important and it should be mandatory for children to participate in climate change decision despite their social status. According to the CRC article 13 and it states, every child has the right to freedom of expression. Why do I say this? In my country people cut down trees and it affects the rainfall patterns. Which leads to drought, floods and some houses are swept away due to heavy rains and families are left homeless.

And in all of this, who is more affected? It is the children. If children can be given a platform to speak and educate people on the effects of cutting of trees for charcoal use in my country, it will help us live for a better future.

We children are the ones experiencing climate change, it will not only affect us but the generation to come. The effects of climate change are that it deprives us of our right to education. By this I mean due to bad rainfall patterns, it may lead to floods and a community that is flooded, will disadvantage children from going to school. If children walk in dirty flood water it brings about diseases such as cholera.

Life and failure to it brings out negative impacts and disadvantages, looking at climate change it has hindered this right and change can only be seen if children are allowed to speak.

Governments must make every effort to ensure that all children have the opportunity to bring their experiences and demands to COP26. Let’s make this year’s COP26 in Glasgow a test on world leaders’ commitment to truly listen to and involve children in climate decisions.

Save the Children is supporting and empowering children to raise their voices on the climate crisis.