Environmental justice

Scroll down to find out more about this issue - including a summary for children and young people, background information including the relevant Children's Rights, how we are monitoring Government and our work in addressing the issue.

NICCY Dudes Climate Protest Children

Summary for children and young people

The current climate crisis has many implications for children’s rights. Not only are the most basic rights at risk such as right to life, healthcare, education, food and protection but our government has not considered children and young people’s views when making decisions about the environment and climate change.

NICCY Youth Panel have been working with their peers across Europe to develop recommendations on Climate Justice. You can read more about their work here.

More information for children and young people on Environmental Justice 

Children Looking to the Clouds

Information on environmental justice

“Environmental damage is a pressing human rights challenge, which has an impact on children’s lives today and in the future. Violations of their rights resulting from environmental harm can have irreversible, lifelong and even transgenerational consequences. Children everywhere suffer violations of their right to life, development, health, food, water, education, culture, play and other rights because governments fail to protect the natural environment. The impact of pollution in one place can be felt by children living far away and climate change is unquestionably a global problem. While environmental harm affects people at any age, children are particularly vulnerable, due to their evolving physical and mental development and status within society. Certain groups of children, including children from indigenous, low-income or other marginalised communities are often at a higher risk, which raises the question for environmental injustice.”

Committee on the Rights of the Child (2016), Report of the 2016 Day of General Discussion: Child Rights and the Environment, (Geneva: OHCHR), p4.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has highlighted the impact of environmental degradation on children’s rights, most notably their article 24 right to health. Climate change, due to the increase in greenhouse gases, is also having a severely detrimental impact on children’s rights across the world. A recent paper published in the Lancet summarised findings from the Lancet’s annual report ‘Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change’ stated that:

“Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Harmful exposures during childhood can irreversibly define physical and mental health and wellbeing, and children’s reliance on adults for their physical safety and emotional development limits their capacity to control their environment. Through increased exposure to extreme weather events, increased environmental suitability for infectious disease transmission and threats to food and water security, climate change will directly impact on children’s health and add extra pressure on already overwhelmed health systems, further undermining the rights of the child to good health and access to health care, to an adequate standard of living and to social security. The impacts of climate change and subsequent inequalities will be felt most by the world’s poorest children. Children born today will inherit a warming world, facing increasing impacts of climate change throughout their lifetimes.”

Relevant Children's Rights

Views from young people

NICCY Dudes Climate Protest Children

“I want to be able to make a difference in ensuring the environment is ok for future generations. I feel like no one cares and it makes me annoyed because we all will pay the consequences of climate change.” Climate Crisis Youth Survey report Belfast City Council and Belfast Climate Coalition

Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland - Cover Broken Glass Orb

“I feel that the environment will continue to deteriorate, and many species will be endangered or go extinct.” Climate Crisis Youth Survey report Belfast City Council and Belfast Climate Coalition

Integrated Education Bill Evidence - Publication Cover

“Bleak and not hopeful because nothing has really changed to prevent more of our eco systems being destroyed.” Climate Crisis Youth Survey report Belfast City Council and Belfast Climate Coalition

Image of Cartoon People Walking Across the World

“I am sad that by the time I’m old enough to work and live independently, the ramifications of climate change will have caught up with humanity in a major way. The only way we can solve climate change is togetherness. We need to make sacrifices in luxury items and products to be able to live on this beautiful planet.” Climate Crisis Youth Survey report Belfast City Council and Belfast Climate Coalition

Monitoring Government – what is government doing to address environmental degradation and climate change?

The Northern Ireland Executive has passed Climate Change (Northern Ireland) Act 2022, which sets legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, and developed a Green Growth Strategy to deliver on these targets. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has also developed an Environment Strategy to protect and enhance the environment. Disappointing both strategies await Executive approval.

Our work on Environmental Justice

We have provided advice to government on the development of the Green Growth Strategy and Environment Strategy. A Child Rights Impact Assessment approach should be taken in relation to the development and delivery of strategies to address climate change, sustainability and environmental degradation. In doing so this this will ensure timely consideration of how children’s rights would be affected, and allow for planning of meaningful engagement of children and young people.

We have worked with the European Network of Ombudsmen for Children to develop a Statement on Climate Action in Sept 2022. This statement highlights the importance of children and young people’s participation in addressing climate change, including their right to information, to protest, challenge and to access legal complaints mechanisms.

A second priority for NICCY has been promoting the participation of children and young people in decision-making on environmental matters, including climate change. From the start, our work on environmental justice has been informed by engagement with children and young people, both those on the NICCY Youth Panel and more widely. The NICCY Youth Panel have developed their own calls for government relating to the priorities of COP-26, and have participated in the work of the European Network of Young Advisers (ENYA), advising on the production of the ENOC statement on Children’s Rights and Climate Justice.

More Info

For further information on our work on environmental justice, contact alex@niccy.org

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