COP28: A COP for Children - World leaders and negotiators urged to centre children in decisions

As the world gathers for COP28, Terre des Hommes emphasises children’s vital contribution to addressing climate change, and insists that their voices and rights be placed at the forefront of global decision-making.

COP28 is taking place in a milestone year when children’s rights to a clean and healthy environment and safe climate, has been explicitly affirmed by the United Nations. Terre des Hommes International Federation urges States to commit to decisive climate action aligned with their child rights obligations and informed by children’s views and perspectives.

In August, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued “General Comment No.26 on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change” – a groundbreaking interpretation of all 196 Member States’ obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This comprehensive guidance assists in interpreting States’ commitment under the Paris Agreement to respect, promote and consider their child rights obligations when taking action to address climate change. It specifies the responsibility of States not only to protect children from immediate harm but also to prevent foreseeable violations of their rights in the future, also emphasising the impact of climate-related loss and damage on children.

The general comment was developed with 12 child advisors and reflects the views and perspectives of 16,331 children from 121 countries who participated in consultations designed by Terre des Hommes.

In her contribution to the consultations, a 17-year-old girl from Croatia declared, “Adults should stop making decisions for the future they won’t experience. We are the key means to solving climate change as it is our lives at stake.”

As Valerie Ceccherini, Secretary General of Terre des Hommes International Federation said: “Children’s lives and their futures cannot be separated from the environment: they are inextricably linked. What happens to the environment affects children and disproportionately so, with children more vulnerable than adults to environmental risks and bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. Millions of children are experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change across their communities. The time to act, to prioritise children and to protect children’s futures is now.”

Thousands of children have articulated their key requests through extensive consultations for General Comment No. 26:

  1. A clean, healthy and sustainable environment for current and future generations
  2. Bold, urgent action from governments, businesses, and adults in general
  3. Stronger, effective international cooperation
  4. For adults to listen to children and take them seriously
  5. More accessible information and education on the environment and climate change
  6. For children to be protected and supported when taking climate action and accessing justice

Three of the remarkable children who advised the General Comment 26 process supported by Terre des Hommes will participate in COP28 to share their insights and recommendations and those of many other children affected by the climate crisis.

Terre des Hommes calls on all leaders and negotiators at COP28 to collectively commit to safeguard the rights and future of children and the planet and:

  • Put children and their rights at the heart of decision-making processes and commitments. Acknowledge the effects of climate change on children and make decisions that are sensitive to children’s needs and rights.
  • Give children a seat at the table in climate decision-making processes on an ongoing basis – at global level as well as local, national and regional levels. Systematically work with children as partners, so that they can share their perspectives, needs and recommendations and inform negotiations on climate action. COP can learn from the GC26 child-centred process led by Terre des Hommes and ensure that participation mechanisms and safe spaces are in place.

COP28 must serve as an alarm call – it is time to define a global response to the climate crisis that upholds children’s right to grow up in a clean, healthy, and safe environment.

As Esmeralda, a #GC26 Child Advisor aged 16 from Peru, explained: “We have to commit ourselves to our environment. Our voices must be heard. They [States] must know that we are here, and we are not going to stop.”


Picture ©Tdh/Jan Schneider