If there is anything that 2020 taught us, it is that we need to build back better now.
In 2021 we need bolder action and accountability from our governments to uphold the right of all children to a healthy environment.
An Intergenerational Advisory Committee (IAC) has recently been formed to oversee a consultation in North America focusing on: The Right of Children and Youth to a Healthy Environment: Building an Agenda for Justice, Equity and Empowerment. The consultation will result in a set of regional recommendations on children’s environmental rights, as well as inform a Global Charter on Children’s Rights and the Environment as a blueprint for States to adopt new and ambitious universal standards with respect to children and the environment.
As the New Year approaches eight of the IAC Advisers share their demands for children’s rights and the environment for their governments to commit to in 2021 and beyond.
Samia Shell, USA
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE AND INTERNATIONAL MODEL
The election of President Joe Biden is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver on much-needed structural change for the protection of children’s rights and the environment in 2021 and beyond. First, the new administration must lead the campaign to amend the United States Constitution to recognize and enforce the human right to a healthy environment. This recognition will benefit children, especially minoritized and marginalized children already suffering from environmental injustices and climate change. Second, the U.S. upon re-entering the Paris Agreement, must explicitly include the rights of children as stakeholders in climate-related decision making. Alongside this, the U.S. government must join the Intergovernmental Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action, which further includes commitments to youth-centered environmental education, investments, and intergenerational partnerships. Finally, the U.S. government must establish a Youth Advisory Council on environment and climate change, which should substantively include minoritized and marginalized children as a permanent mechanism for domestic and international policy-making.
Silvia Yoselín Hernández Basurto, Mexico
PROJECT MANAGER IN NAJ HUB A.C. AND YOUNG EARTH SCIENTIST
By strengthening the capacity of children and youth to protect the environment, protect themselves, and contribute to a sustainable future, the government of Mexico must ensure that children and youth living in rural communities can empower themselves and impact their communities. Promoting strategies for agrobiodiversity conservation and having food sovereignty is urgent and children’s rights and the environment can’t be ignored.
Mexico is a beautiful country with unique marine characteristics, it has great marine biodiversity and a large number of marine resources. The ocean plays a fundamental role in mitigating climate change; therefore, it is essential to protect the ocean. The Mexican government has to promote ocean sciences, where many young people promote initiatives from science diplomacy.
Sofia Nybida, Canada
I would like to see the government implement a large carbon tax, stop mass clear-cutting old-growth forests and LISTEN TO INDIGENOUS people and youth.
Leomar Ruiz, Mexico
CLIMATE AND CHILD RIGHTS ACTIVIST
The government of Mexico must commit to have a greater allocation of economic resources for actions to improve the environment and protect rights. In addition to implementing and promoting programs that protect and respect the rights and laws established in the field of children’s rights and environmental care. Lastly, the government must strengthen the budget and leadership to manage state programs in the specialized areas of children and the environment.
Lynne Iser, USA
ACTIVIST, ADVOCATE, PRESIDENT, ELDERS ACTION NETWORK
I believe that all children should have the right to a clean environment, clean water, air and food. That all children have the right to look to their future with hope, and not be concerned that climate change will create a future environment that will not sustain their lives or livelihood. I believe that children have the right to trust the adults in their lives to be responsible, to speak and care for their future, rather than watch world leaders make decisions that are knowingly harmful to their future.
Rubén Darío Martínez Ramírez, Mexico
CLIMATE CHANGE SCHOLAR
1. Greater environmental education and promotion to more youth and children.
2. Greater consideration of minority groups such as people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and LGBT+ community.
3. Improve youth and childhood participation mechanisms.
Kalpana Narlikar, USA
I believe the United States’ Government should commit to the goals laid out in the Green New Deal (HR. 109), which is a resolution that meets the severity of the Climate Crisis. In terms of implementing the Green New Deal effectively I believe we need to commit to a just transition for all workers so that workers in non-sustainable sectors and industries are not left behind and do not see the Green New Deal as a threat to their livelihoods. One way we need to do this is by committing to listening to the concerns of fossil fuel workers and workers whose jobs depend on fossil fuels as we transition the country to sustainable energy. Another way we need to do this is by growing and transitioning to sustainable agriculture in a way that farmers and farm workers have a say in the process. And one thing we must do, which is essential to protecting workers in both newly forming and already established sustainable industries, is pass labor laws that strengthen workers unions and ensure worker representation on corporate boards of directors. These may seem like edge considerations compared to the intersections of climate and racial justice and other social justice issues. However a large part of the population (namely workers in non-sustainable sectors and industries) will feel threatened by and strongly oppose laws and policies in line with the Green New Deal unless we take the above measures to ensure their voices are heard and their rights protected.
Yolanda Corona, Mexico
1. The State must approve public policies to protect children from environmental harm. In order to do that they must do deep research on the potential environmental risks or harms to children and their families.
2. The government should continue with the effort to include children’s rights in primary and secondary education programs, specifically the right to a healthy and just environment. Also they must inform teachers, families and children about environmental risks.
3. Allow child participation in decision making in the municipal committees that already exist.