Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Children on climate change frontline denied a voice

Further to my facetious little post on the Unicef climate forum in Copenhagen (1 December), here's some rather more depressing stuff about the lack of involvement of children who are living on the front line of climate change. From the organisation Plan International and reported in Crinmail today:

CLIMATE CHANGE: Children on climate change frontline denied a voice, says NGO

Children already struggling to adapt to severe, unpredictable weather and environmental disasters are being denied a say in the climate change debate, says children's organisation Plan International.

Young people in developing countries are taking on more responsibility and initiatives to protect their homes and communities but are not being allowed to hold governments to account.

With two in five of the world's population under the age of 18, climate change is set to have a disproportionate impact upon children.

The impact can already be seen in some countries where it operates with shorter and unpredictable rainy seasons, severe typhoons, hurricanes and floods, long-lasting droughts, and repeatedly failed harvests.

Plan International's CEO Nigel Chapman said: "Extreme weather caused by global warming has the ability to undermine all the gains achieved in the areas of food security, water and sanitation, and the survival of young children.

'We have seen how a catalogue of disasters this year has damaged homes and livelihoods in many countries where we work, with children being the greatest victims.'

Increasingly, young people are now being trained in how to practically deal with the results of such natural disasters - and how to protect their homes and build the resilience of their communities.

But not enough is being done says Mr Chapman, to support these children nor to allow them to have their say in climate change discussions.

'Children all over the world are now showing their interest, capacity and valuable role in strengthening resilience to climate risks. But adults are negotiating away the viability of the world they will live in without giving the next generation a place at the table.

'As one of the groups so drastically affected, their voice must be heard now - both on how their communities are being affected today and will be increasingly under threat in the future.'

Plan is now calling for a number of actions at COP15 (Copenhagen climate conference) including:

* Children to be given access to dialogue and formal decision making mechanisms on climate change.
* Governments to invest more in education so the next generation knows more about managing the environment.
* Ensuring that National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and other international, regional and national strategic plans on climate change protect and involve children.
* Emphasising the significance of children - in terms of impact and 'agency' - within the 5th IPCC Assessment Report

Beatrice, 13, from Kithyoko, Kenya, is one of a number of young reporters who will be attending COP 15 with Plan.

"Climate change is affecting my community directly," she says, "I am looking forward to the day when all the people will understand better use of resources and change the climate for better. We are the future leaders and if we understand the effects of climate change now, later in life we can save our countries.

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