Children make demands to global leaders ahead of summit

A child plays with a motorcycle wheel. [Getty Images]

African children want African and global leaders attending the African Climate Summit to address their issues.

Speaking on Saturday under the Global Child-led Climate Change Summit Committee (GCCCS), they tabled ten issues that they want addressed.

They called for the empowerment of their climate voice. ‘‘We seek the world’s support in empowering our advocacy. Allow us to highlight climate-induced child rights violations and share our solutions,’’ said Ellyanne Githae, Africa’s youngest climate finance and biodiversity champion, in Kenya.

They also want children’s health and education prioritised. They implored global stakeholders to boost support for community empowerment, address climate change’s impact on children’s health and ensure African girls’ education and protection from forced marriages.

In addition, they asked global leaders to insist on robust climate finance by amplifying climate finance globally, ensuring that contributions do not support fossil fuel expansion. They also demanded for global financial reform, to enable a shift from outdated economic models to systems that champion humanity and the environment is vital.

Business models, they said, should prioritise their rights, job creation, and the eradication of poverty. ‘‘We advocate for an intergenerational commission to redefine our social contract and birth a new economy prioritising our planet,’’ said Foday Bangura, national vice president, of Children’s Forum Network, Sierra Leone.

The children also mentioned equitable carbon trade biodiverse investments and inclusive environmental decision-making in Africa. They said it’s imperative that African governments consult their people, especially children, on environmental decisions since as the future’s custodians, their voices matter.

Also on their list is financial accountability and equity by African governments allocating resources transparently and equitably, ensuring marginalised communities benefit from investments. They demanded environmental education and digital empowerment through prioritising a comprehensive educational reform focusing on climate change and conservation, and digital empowerment to foster green initiatives in schools.

Finally, they are demanding for green energy advocacy and investments in rural Africa. ‘‘Champion green energy by eliminating solar import duties and boost investments in rural heartlands to ensure sustainable agricultural practices and community upliftment,’’ said Bangura.

A report from the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) highlights that children in 98 per cent of African countries are exposed to extremely high risks from the impacts of climate change, yet receive only a minimum fraction of global climate funding.

The report, titled “Time to Act: African Children in the Climate Change Spotlight,” underscores the urgent need for targeted investments to protect the continent’s most vulnerable citizens.

The report’s findings reveal that out of 49 African countries assessed, 48 have children categorised as being at high or extremely high risk due to their exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones, and heatwaves and their vulnerability based on access to essential services.

Children living in the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, Somalia, and Guinea-Bissau are identified as the most vulnerable.

“It is clear that the youngest members of African society are bearing the brunt of the harsh effects of climate change,” said Lieke van de Wiel, Deputy Director of UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa region.

“They are the least able to cope, due to physiological vulnerability and poor access to essential social services. We need to see a stronger focus of funding towards this group, so they are equipped to face a lifetime of climate-induced disruptions,” he said. 

The report also examines the allocation of resources from multilateral climate funds (MCF), revealing that a mere 2.4 per cent of global climate funding is directed towards child-responsive activities. When considering youth as part of the target group, the figure increases slightly to 6.6 per cent of total MCF spending.

The report calls on the 196 States that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child to take immediate action, including transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving air quality, ensuring access to clean water, transforming agriculture and fisheries for sustainable food production, and protecting biodiversity.