4 December 2014: You might be asking what climate change has to do with children’s voices, and what this has to do with Plan.
As Plan Australia’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme Manager, I’m here in Lima representing Plan and children’s rights during the UN Climate Change conference, which runs until 12 December.
Governments from around the world are meeting in Peru to hash out some of the details of the next legally binding international agreement on climate change, the final version of which will be signed next year in Paris.
Raising the voices of children and young people at these events is imperative. In my role, I visit many of the communities Plan works with to help build the resilience of children, young people and their communities.
Just last week I was in the Philippines monitoring some of the projects Plan works on. In this visit, I got to talk with many elementary and high-school students about what climate change means to them, what they’ve learnt about climate change impacts (both through Plan’s programming and through their own life experiences), and what’s needed to address climate change.
Children and young people throughout the Philippines are already acting to prepare for and adapt to climate change – they are planting mangroves to reduce the impact of storm surges, planting trees to reduce the likelihood of landslides, working with their local government to compost organic waste, and helping to implement new farming techniques that burn less waste and improve the yields of crops in the changing climates they find themselves in.
Feeling the impacts
These children and young people are already feeling the impacts of climate change on their families, on their schools, on their communities, and on themselves. We talked about the impacts they are already feeling, as well as the ones they know are coming – the impacts they fear, both for themselves and for others.
They told me about not being able to go to school because of the impacts of increased storms and typhoons, they talked about their families not having enough to eat because their families now only get 2 harvests of rice a year instead of 3, and they told me about increases in vector borne diseases like dengue.
Lead, inspire, listen
But children are not merely passive victims. These same boys and girls and young men and women also told me about both what they are already doing about climate change, and what they want us to do.
They talked about the actions they are taking, and what they want decision makers – their parents, teachers, local government leaders, national leaders, and the global community – to do.
They are looking for real leadership: leaders who will show them how to make complicated decisions, who will show them how to action and implement those decisions and who will listen; leaders who will inspire them the way that they inspire me.
So my job while I’m here in Lima is to try to give a voice to young people – we have several youth delegates talking at our side event at the conference, 'Children in a changing climate: who does the future belong to?', on 4 December – and to encourage the negotiators and leaders who are here to lead, to inspire, and to listen.