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 obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
For the first time, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has explicitly affirmed the children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, issuing comprehensive interpretation of Member States’ obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This Convention, created in 1989 and ratified by 196 states, outlines universal children’s rights such as the right to life, survival and development, and the right to health. A General Comment provides legal guidance on what these rights imply for a specific topic or area of legislation. The now published “General Comment No. 26 on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change”, explicitly addresses the climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution, outlining countermeasures to protect the lives and life perspectives of children.
Philip Jaffé, member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child states: “Children worldwide have been leading the fight against climate change; calling on their governments and corporations to take action to protect the planet and their future. With its General Comment No. 26, the Committee on the Rights of the Child not only echoes and amplifies children’s voices, but also clearly defines the rights of children in relation to the environment that States Parties should respect, protect and fulfil… collectively and urgently!”
“This new General Comment marks a vital step forward in the recognition that every child on Earth has the right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Governments must now take urgent action to address the global environmental crisis in order to breathe life into these inspiring words,” says David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.
Global Call to Action with United Nations General Comment No. 26
General Comment No. 26 specifies that States 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. Furthermore, it underlines that States can be held accountable not only for environmental harm occurring within their borders, but also for the harmful impacts of environmental damage and climate change beyond their borders. Particular attention is to be paid to disproportionate harm faced by children in disadvantaged situations.
The 196 States that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child are urged to take immediate action including organizing 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.
Children on the Frontline in the Fight for Climate
General Comment No. 26 will be available here: www.ohchr.org
More information about General Comment No.26 can be found at : childrightsenvironment.org