16 children sue world on climate crisis

New York: In a first-of-its-kind initiative, 16 child petitioners, including Sweden’s Greta Thunberg and American Alexandria Villase, from 12 countries presented a landmark official complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (OHCHR) to protest against the lack of government action on the climate crisis.

In the complaint filed on Monday through the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the petitioners, aged between eight and 17, have alleged that member states’ failure to tackle the climate crisis constitutes a violation of child rights.

The Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is a voluntary mechanism which allows children or adults on their behalf to appeal directly to the UN for help if a country that has ratified the Protocol fails to provide a remedy for a rights violation.

They urged the independent body to order the member states to take action to protect children from the devastating impacts of climate change.

“Change needs to happen now if we are to avoid the worst consequences. The climate crisis is not just the weather. It means also, lack of food and lack of water, places that are unliveable and refugees because of it. It is scary,” said the 16-year-old Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg.

Announced at a press conference hosted at the UNICEF Headquarters in New York, the complaint aims to inspire the urgent action needed to curb global heating and mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.

“Thirty years ago, world leaders made a historic commitment to the world’s children by adopting the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Today, the worlda�s children are holding the world accountable to that commitment,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.

“We fully support children exercising their rights and taking a stand. Climate change will impact every single one of them. It’s no wonder they are uniting to fight back.”

In addition to Thunberg and the 14-year-old American climate activist Alexandria Villasenor, the 14 other child petitioners were from India, Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, the Marshall Islands, Nigeria, Palau, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia and the US.

They were represented by global law firm Hausfeld LLP and Earthjustice.

UNICEF supports the child petitioners exercising their right to bring complaints via the communication procedure of the Third Optional Protocol.

However, UNICEF is not a party to the complaint. It is neutral and plays no part in the adjudication process by the OHCHR.