On World Environment Day, Save the Children Australia warmly welcomes the announcement by the United Nations Child Rights Committee that they will seek to hold countries accountable to children and their environmental rights.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has confirmed they will initiate a General Comment on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change.
The General Comment will serve as authoritative guidance on how children’s rights are impacted by the environmental and climate crisis, and what countries must do to uphold these rights.
Save the Children’s Head of Policy, Simon Henderson said the development was a major milestone in terms of child rights and climate change, with implications for Australia.
“The climate crisis is a child rights crisis,” said Mr Henderson.
“The General Comment will be a historic development which will have implications for Australia and the way the Australian Government responds to the climate crisis.”
“Children’s voices, their rights and their best interests need to be at the centre of climate processes and policies in Australia. Foreign governments, the UN and most importantly, kids are telling us this.”
“We know the climate crisis will only worsen, affecting more children more often, if the Government doesn’t act to immediately reduce emissions and transition to net-zero by 2050 at the latest.”
The UN announcement comes shortly after a Federal Court decision, Sharma v Environment Minister, that the Australian Government has a duty of care to protect children from the impacts of climate change.
“Children and young people have a right to be heard and they are demanding urgent climate action loud and clear,” said Mr Henderson.
“Climate change is a threat to children everywhere and we hope this announcement serves as a catalyst for change.”
“The General Comment on child rights, the environment and climate change is the result of years of hard work and tireless campaigning by children, young people and their allies.”
“Children and young people, especially from the most marginalized communities, will and must play a critical role in informing the General Comment.”
In January this year, seven countries called on Australia to implement policies and measures to combat climate change through the Universal Periodic Review process at the Human Rights Council, including ensuring full and meaningful participation of children.
Australia will formally respond to those recommendations on 8 July, including those referencing climate change from France, Fiji, Switzerland and Vanuatu. Save the Children’s submission on the outcomes from the January 2021 hearing can be found at this link.
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