Climate change is causing an intergenerational crisis that overwhelmingly affects the rights and the future of millions of children and adolescents. Listening to their voices is the first step and a duty to ensure greater intergenerational equity.
“Our leaders lack action, and they do it intentionally. They pretend to have plans against climate change, but they open mines by exploiting resources without increasing resources. They select young people like us by pretending to listen to us, but they are not, they are not listening to us.” – Greta Thunberg
According to UNICEF, about 1 billion children are living in countries at “extreme risk” of being affected by the impacts of climate change. 850 million of children are exposed to at least four environmental or climate hazards such as heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, floods and water scarcity. The environmental crisis turns out to be a crisis pf children’s rights, an intergenerational crisis, the consequences of which affect to a greater extent children and adolescents who contributed the least to generate it.
Data provided by Save the Children International show that globally, on average and according to the Paris Agreement, a child born in 2020 faces 2 times more risks of wildfires than a person born in 1960, 2,8 times more risks of famine and floods, 2,6 times more drought phenomena, and 6,8 times more excessive heat waves. Events that drastically affects children’s basic rights, such as the right to health, to education, to shelter and to a clean and healthy environment.
“Generation Hope” is a global campaign promoted by Save the Children International which aims at giving voice to the next generation and demanding urgent action against climate change and inequality for a safer world and a more peaceful future for all.
At national level, Save the Children Italy has launched some events to listen to the voices of youth regarding climate change and economic inequality, by releasing an online questionnaire aimed at people between the ages of 14 and 24 living in Italy to collect their ideas, needs and suggestions for a greener and fairer world. The instances collected from boys and girls will be at the basis of more effective proposals to be submitted in the upcoming global events such as Youth4climate and COP27.
In fact, to ensure intergenerational justice and equity, it is important to listen to the voice of the younger generations, particularly concerned with sustainability and alarmed by deaf politicians and a socio-economic system that puts their future at risk. The Fridays for Future, as well as various local and global organizations, have shown the engagement of youth, their awareness and activism, both during COPs and side events, as well as during the protests in the major cities of the world. Children and young men and women are now once again at the front lines for the next COP and Youth4Climate, as key players in the green revolution and transition we are about to experience.
Environmental protection is considered a top priority by youth. According to surveys conducted by Eurobarometer, on the basis of an initiative of the EU Parliament, 39 percent of young Europeans consider the environment one of the key and most urgent issues of public policy in the coming years. In Italy, 44 percent of boys and girls identify the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change a priority, hence, above the European average: this awareness is reflected also in a greater activism on this issue.
Yet, their perspective and their vision of the future are hardly considered within the contemporary debate. Despite the fact that the adverse consequences of climate change and the need to respond in the future to the choices being made today will fall on them. Children and adolescents are agents of change, and their participation in local, national and global policy-making on these issues must therefore be strongly encouraged through more inclusive, representative and participatory processes.