The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on Monday updated a key treaty designed to strengthen children’s rights to battle climate change.
In a new report issued by the committee, the U.N. said that climate change is affecting children’s rights to life, survival and development, adding that they are the most vulnerable to its global impact yet their voices are rarely heard.
Under the new measure, U.N. member nations will be required to take such protective measures as monitoring air quality, regulating food safety and tackling emissions and toxic lead exposure.
The U.N. is also encouraging member nations to address the “clear emerging link” between climate change and children’s mental health.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, climate change directly impacts mental health “particularly in young people” but in adults as well in that it can lead to job loss, force people to move, and harm social cohesion and community resources. The sheer fear of the impact of climate change can cause additional distress, according to psychiatrists.
Some 16,000 children across more than 100 countries were consulted as part of a broader dialogue during the United Nations’ two-year drafting period for the guidelines.
All U.N. member nations except for the United States ratified the 1989 child rights convention, which addressed environmental matters. The Committee on the Rights of the Child noted, however, that the convention needed updating, given the pace of climate change.
Earlier this month, a group of 16 Montanans, ranging in age from 5 to 22, did win a major climate change case in the United States by arguing their state failed to protect their right to a clean environment. That ruling found that by promoting the continued use of fossil fuels, the state government had violated a provision in Montana’s Environmental Policy Act that guarantees the right to a clean environment.