March 19, 2021

Guest Blog: The Rights of the Child and Climate Action

Katie Reid, Children’s Voices Project Lead at Children's Parliament

The climate emergency is a human rights issue. Any plan, solution or action to tackle the climate emergency must respond to the needs, and rights, of everyone living here, and this means listening to the diversity of views and lived experiences of all generations. This includes children who have the right to have their views heard and taken seriously as outlined in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

In Scotland, it’s an historic week for children and their human rights. On Tuesday 16th March 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Incorporation Bill, which will see children’s human rights become law in Scotland later this year. It has been a week filled with joy and celebration for children and adults who campaigned for this legislation: and a powerful demonstration of promises being realised. 

In Scotland, it’s also an historic week for climate justice. Scotland’s Climate Assembly meets for the last time this weekend to finalise their recommendations to the Scottish Parliament about how Scotland should change to tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way. Scotland’s Climate Assembly is the first citizens’ assembly to have directly involved children under the age of 16, with the support of Children’s Parliament - a unique and significant realisation of children’s participation rights, in the context of deliberative democracy. Today also marks the 3rd anniversary of the #FridaysForFuture global climate strike movement with children and young people across the world coming together, to stand up for climate justice and demand real, urgent action. 

Over the last five months, I have had the joy and privilege of working with over 100 Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) across Scotland to ensure their views, ideas and calls to action have informed the Climate Assembly process. I have been particularly grateful to work with the 12 Investigators aged 9-12 who led the children’s ‘investigation’, further exploring the evidence, and representing the wider group’s views and ideas to the adult Assembly Members in a series of short films

Earlier this month, the children presented their calls to action to the Climate Assembly members. In the last part of their film, Nadia and Tyler, Investigators from West Lothian, conclude with a key message for adults: “Now it’s up to you.” The children’s calls are imaginative, bold, and ambitious. Now, they are calling on the adult Climate Assembly members to listen, and to make their recommendations to the Scottish Parliament ambitious too. 

But this message isn’t just for the Climate Assembly members; this message is for all adults.  

Throughout this investigation, children highlighted how they lack opportunities to have a say and be taken seriously in decisions being made about the climate emergency. 

"I think climate change impacts our right to be listened to and taken seriously, as some people do not believe children's pleas about the climate." MCP age 10, Western Isles

Whilst having the right to have a say and be taken seriously, children do not hold the responsibility to affect change, it is adults who have the responsibility to take action.

"They really need to take on-board what we're saying because it's our future.” Investigator age 11, Western Isles

We haven’t got time to wait for our children to grow up into leadership positions: big, bold actions must happen now. Children want to be part of the solutions and changes needed and want to work with adults to tackle the climate emergency together.  

Scotland is incorporating the UNCRC into Scots Law, in this Children's Parliament's Year of Childhood 2021. It is now our responsibility, as adults, to work with children to ensure their big, bold visions are taken seriously and that there are #NoMoreEmptyPromises. 

Click here for more information about Children’s Parliament’s investigation for the climate assembly.