Children present Charter of Demands on climate action
Children from across India presented an eight-point Charter of Demands to top national leaders on World Children’s Day
Charter of Demands on climate action was presented by children in a virtual conference to the chief guest the Honourable Vice President of India Shri M Venkaiah Naidu, along with the Honourable Minister of Women and Child Development, Smt. Smriti Irani and 30 Members of Parliament on World Children's Day.
Children from across India shared how climate change had impacted on them as part of the consultations by children, with the support of civil society coalition Nine is Mine, NGO PRATYek, U-Report and UNICEF India. Some 7,000 children were involved in preparing the Charter of Demands.
"The climate charter will represent our hard work during this COVID-19 pandemic. We may not be voters, but we believe our voices are stronger than that of adults,” said seventeen-year-old Manisha Ram, Vice President of the National Inclusive Children's Parliament.
The Charter of Demands for Climate Action highlights the need for:
Greener public transportation options
Banning single-use plastics
Creating greater awareness in schools and communities
Research linking climate change and public health
Stronger enforcement of environment regulations by local government bodies
Bridging the digital divide and building a climate movement
In his opening address streamed live, the Honourable Vice President Shri M Venkaiah Naidu urged everyone to take action the challenges confronting India’s children.
“India and the world finds itself at a pivotal juncture - our children are at tremendous risk due to climate change and as policymakers, leaders, upstanding members of the society, parents and grandparents, it is only us, who can come to their rescue. We cannot let apathy jeopardize our children’s future.”
He then invited children to share their perspectives.
“Child rights should be interwoven into key national climate change strategies, policies and planning documents. It is our response to climate change that needs to include a child centric approach that can be done through such platforms.”
The Vice President's equivalent in the National Inclusive Children's Parliament, Manisha Ram, told adult and child parliamentarians that climate action should extend beyond limited politics and called for the declaration of a climate emergency.
"We know it is possible. We have all seen and witnessed how COVID-19 was addressed in a decisive way. We only have a few years to save our planet, our home and Mother Earth," she urged the participants.
Children from across India each told their stories of how climate change had impacted them and demanded concrete action.
Tamiltulasi, a twelve-year-old member of Children’s Parliament from Kotagiri in Tamil Nadu, shared how climate change had left her family homeless and demanded action to prevent this happening again.
“My family was living in a shed like house and it got damaged due to heavy rain and soil erosion. I demand funding and prioritization of afforestation efforts,” she said
Binod Debbarma, a 16-year-old from Tripura, narrated using sign language how an earthquake during a school day in 2017 led to a frightening experience for him and his friends. They later received training on disaster awareness from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
“Every school must have an emergency plan for disaster management and the classroom should be equipped with emergency lights and siren for every child. During a natural calamity, children/persons with disability should be given priority for rescue,” said Binod.
"I demand greater awareness in schools and communities. I also demand bridging the digital divide to ensure equal opportunity for education and towards building a climate movement."
Speaking at the virtual Children’s Climate Parliament, the Honourble Minister, Women and Child Development Smt. Smriti Irani said, “It is wonderful to see such informed representation from children coming together with us to discuss the impact of climate change and working to dedicate ourselves to create an environmentally conscious future.” said the Minister.
The Minister then outlined some of the government's efforts in this regard and assured the children of action.
We pledge to our children that we in our actions are committed to being environmentally responsible and prudent in resource actualization.
For the youngest climate warrior, toxic air is a key concern. Ten-year-old Ravi lives in Delhi and said there has been an increase in the number of vehicles that pass by the slum where he lives.
“The harmful gases released by the cars, buses and other vehicles is making the air contaminated and we find it difficult to breathe,” he said, also noting that the burning of electronic items also results in emission of poisonous gases.
I wish that we can all live in an environment which is pure and free from dust and air pollution.
I demand clean environment and access to safe hygiene services and ban of single-use plastics.
The session was followed by a question-and-answer session, where Members of Parliament from the Parliamentarian's Group for Children (PGC) responded to queries posed by children on actions being taken to address environmental concerns.
Honourable Vandana Chavan, the PGC Convenor and Member of Parliament advocated for the explicit integration of child rights in key national climate change and adaptation strategies, policies and planning documents.
“By including children and young as protagonists of climate policies, we can devise solutions that will be implemented in the years and decades to come,” she said.
In concluding the interaction, UNICEF India Country Representative, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque urged all children to continue to share their hopes, fears and solutions, and she urged duty bearers to continue to ask children what they want. Dr Haque also stressed the urgency of action.
“These are difficult times for children all over the country and it has shown us how pandemic recovery has to be child centric. The current pandemic has demonstrated how quickly global risks can multiply and spread, and why resilience and timely actions are vital to protecting the world from major threats that the climate change pose.
"Children of India, we are listening to you and we are working to build the future you want and deserve," said Dr Haque.
Join UNICEF India and children to learn how you can take simple steps towards action and be a Climate Warrior in your community.