Environmental Child Rights: Paving the Way to COP28


Compiled by Fortunate Chilenje


The protection of environmental child rights is vital for ensuring a sustainable and equitable future. Owing to their distinct physiology, metabolism, and developmental requirements, children are disproportionately impacted by environmental changes. Changes in temperature, air and water quality and nutrition are likely to have more severe and long-term impacts on children’s health, development, and well-being. Young children, because of their less developed physiology and immune systems, will experience most intensely the effects of climate change-related stresses. During childhood, alterations to the social and physical environment can have far-reaching implications for children’s long-term physical and mental health and overall quality of life. According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 2015), there may be no greater threat facing the world’s children, and future generations, than climate change.

 As we anticipate the upcoming COP28, the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties, it is essential to recognize the significance of this global event in advancing the cause of environmental child rights. With a dedicated session on children, youth, and education, COP28 demonstrates a strong commitment to addressing the unique challenges faced by children and their rights in the face of environmental degradation and climate change.

Environmental Child Rights

Environmental child rights encompass the fundamental rights of children to a clean and safe environment, sustainable development, and active participation in decision-making processes affecting the environment.

The Road to COP28

COP28 provides a critical platform for global leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders to come together and discuss strategies, commitments, and actions to address climate change and environmental challenges. This conference presents a unique opportunity to prioritize environmental child rights within climate discussions and shape policies that safeguard the well-being of children and future generations.

Benefits for Environmental Child Rights

COP28 holds significant potential to benefit environmental child rights in several ways through:

  1. Policy Advancements: COP28 offers an opportunity to strengthen international policies and frameworks that explicitly recognize and protect the rights of children in environmental matters. By integrating child rights perspectives into climate policies, nations can ensure that the specific needs and vulnerabilities of children are adequately addressed.
  2.  Enhanced Climate Education: COP28 can prioritize climate education and awareness programs, empowering children with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand, adapt to, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. By fostering climate literacy from an early age, we enable children to become active agents of change and engage in sustainable practices.
  3. Climate Justice and Equity: COP28 can contribute to advancing climate justice by addressing the disproportionate burden of environmental degradation and climate change on marginalized and vulnerable children. By adopting equitable and inclusive climate policies, we can ensure that no child is left behind and that their rights are protected, irrespective of their background or geographic location.
  4.  Youth Participation and Engagement: COP28’s focus on children, youth, and education highlights the importance of engaging young people in decision-making processes. By providing platforms for their voices to be heard, COP28 acknowledges the unique perspectives, ideas, and solutions that children and youth can contribute to environmental discussions, policy formulation, and climate action.
  5. Climate finance: It is key to implementing the ‘quantum leap’ in climate action required to meet the target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C and to safeguard communities from the impacts of climate change, yet global climate finance commitments remain unfulfilled and woefully inadequate, particularly for adaptation. Despite bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, children are being failed by climate funding commitments. COP 28 must call for developed countries to reaffirm their commitment to avail $100 billion annually by 2020 for developing countries. A commitment that has thus far failed to materialise.

Key Recommendations

To maximize the impact of COP28 on environmental child rights, the following recommendations should be considered,

  1. Partnerships between governments, civic society, and the commercial sector must be strengthened in order to promote environmental child rights and ensure holistic development within a sustainable environment.
  2. Climate Education should receive more funding and resources in order to be integrated into both formal and informal learning contexts, allowing children to comprehend and confront environmental concerns.
  3. Promoting climate-resilient infrastructure, including sustainable urban planning, clean water, sanitation, and green spaces, is crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of children.


COP28 represents a significant milestone in our collective efforts to protect the environment and secure a sustainable future for all, particularly for children. By dedicating a session to children, youth, and education, COP28 demonstrates a commitment to advancing environmental child rights. Through strengthened policies, enhanced climate education, climate justice, and youth engagement, COP28 can pave the way for transformative action that empowers children to become environmental advocates and stewards. Let us seize this opportunity to prioritize environmental child rights and create a world where children can thrive in harmony with a healthy and sustainable planet.

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