When children start suing governments for inaction on climate change, as they have in South Korea, Pakistan, India and several other countries, it is time to sit up and take notice.
The climate crisis is already a menace to countries battered by extreme weather events. But with much worse to come for future generations, it is also a child rights crisis. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines children’s rights to survival. It explicitly mentions “the dangers and risks of environmental pollution” including global heating.
But in a region that is already the world’s most disaster-prone, home to three of the biggest carbon-emitting countries and 99 of the 100 most polluted cities, such rights are being flushed into a pit of toxic waste.
These rights are undermined by every new coal plant opened, every new acre of forest burned, and every missed opportunity to rebuild the region’s currently stalled economies on cleaner, greener foundations.
There is a strong moral obligation on governments to take effective action to help minimise the effects of our unsustainable consumption of natural resources. But there is also growing recognition of governments’ legal obligations to do so. And our children have been making their voices heard. Until COVID-19.
The global pandemic has shifted everyone’s attention and silenced much of the child- and youth-led buzz around the climate crisis that captured public attention last year. Though many young climate activists have remained engaged, our analysis of social media finds the number of public online conversations about climate, which steadily rose during 2019, declined sharply in 2020 when COVID-19 emerged. Globally, public online discussions about climate between April and June this year plummeted by a staggering 70 percent compared with the same period last year.