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"Listen To Us": What Children Want From COP28

Children across the world are demanding better access to climate education, more funding for climate-resilient infrastructure and a seat at the table with their voices heard as their governments head to COP28 this week, Save the Children said.

The requests were voiced during national ‘COP simulations’ organised by Save the Children and partners. Young people from 14 countries, including Rwanda, Guatemala, Nigeria and Madagascar, shared their views with key decision-makers ahead of the annual climate conference that is taking place this year in Dubai, UAE, from 30 November until 12 December.

The world’s 2.4 billion children are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis - an emergency that is taking lives, eroding children’s rights and threatening their future.

ACCESS TO EDUCATION

In Rwanda, children said floods and mudslides had destroyed buildings and roads, preventing them from going to school or accessing health facilities.

"When there is heavy rain, children don’t manage to go to school...it causes mudslides. Then our parents start struggling to get school fees and this results in school dropouts," they said.

In Zambia, extreme weather events like drought, had also impacted their access to education.

"When there is a drought, we children don’t go to school because we must search for water," their joint letter read.

Every year, extreme weather events interrupt learning for about 40 million children, a figure likely to rise as the intensity and frequency increase due to climate change [1].

CLIMATE FINANCE INVESTMENT

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Across the simulations, many children asked their governments to include climate education on national curriculum, so they are equipped with knowledge about climate change, its effects and how to address it. Many also requested better infrastructure to make school buildings and communities safer.

Zambian children asked their delegation to protect their access to water services , by investing in practical solutions, like drilling boreholes and water harvesting.

"We also want to see sustainable infrastructure that can survive floods and droughts," they said.

A group in Madagascar said: "Because of the cyclones, the water level is rising so we can't go to school. We're asking for a bridge so that we can cross over and get to school."

In Nigeria, children said money should go towards new facilities that have "flood-resistant materials, adequate drainage systems, and alternative energy sources".

Investment in infrastructure tailored to children’s needs is vital to help communities adapt to the climate crisis. But children’s rights are often overlooked when it comes to climate finance. A recent report by Save the Children and partners, found that just 2.4% of climate finance from four key global climate funds can be classified as sufficiently considering children, although some funders - like the Green Climate Fund - are actively working to bridge these gaps. [2]

IMPACTS OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS ON HUNGER & HEALTH

Many children highlighted the knock-on effects of climate change, explaining how it impacted their families’ crops, sources of income, food security and overall health.

In Madagascar children said: "Our parents have difficulty finding enough to feed us. Not only are the crops destroyed, but we also don't have enough money to keep going to school or to be treated when we fall ill."

Zambian children said this often-impacted adults ’ mental health, adding: "Too many people are stressed when it doesn’t rain, or it rains too much because their crops and things get destroyed."

In Guatemala children asked authorities " to support the implementation of projects that generate agricultural production, as this helps to combat hunger and malnutrition, in addition to increasing food security".

Last year, Save the Children found that 83% of children in 15 countries reported witnessing climate change or inequality, or both, affecting the world around them. The report found 73% of children believe adults should be doing more to address these issues [3].

CHILD PARTICIPATION

Across the board, children, ultimately, wanted their voices to be heard. Children’s calls for action pushed the climate emergency up the political agenda, but they said they were woefully neglected in climate discussions.

"Our voice is important, listen to us. We want to ask the authorities to seriously think about the value we have as children, and the future we deserve," the group in Guatemala said.

In New Zealand, children and young people have also been pushing for climate action from the Government. Earlier this year, children as young as six contributed to more than 200 messages that were presented to the then Climate Change Minister James Shaw at Parliament in August, before being sent to New York where they were presented to world leaders attending the UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit.

The messages, gathered by Save the Children as part of a global campaign, Message in a Bottle, highlight young people’s fears of the impact of climate change on their futures, alongside calls for practical action such as greater investment in safe, reliable public transport, more reuseable options and less plastic in packaging; and raising awareness of the increasing impact of climate change on Pacific nations.

"Our planet cries out for action, and we entrust you, our leaders, with the power to make a difference," said Lola, 15, one of Save the Children NZ’s youth ambassadors.

"Together, let us build a legacy of environmental stewardship, ensuring that the generations to come inherit a world filled with possibilities, not limitations. The time to act is now, and history will remember the choices you make today."

CEO Inger Ashing said:

"The climate crisis is at its heart a child rights crisis. It’s taking lives, eroding children’s rights and threatening their future. Children’s calls for action pushed the climate emergency up the political agenda. Now, adults must step-up and support children to implement their ideas for a better future. Children want to be heard. We need to ensure a focus on children’s rights, based on children’s own views and recommendations, in climate negotiations, policies and financing at all levels."

Save the Children is urging world leaders at COP28, particularly those from high-income countries and historical emitters, to increase climate finance, directing support to children and families for adaptation to the climate crisis and addressing losses and damages. Governments must recognise children as key agents of change and work urgently to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

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