Invisible Children in Climate Negotiations

The United Nations Climate Conference represents a new opportunity for children to have their rights, including the right to participate, integrated into climate action.

by Paulo Lima

A growing number of children are being forced to leave their homes due to extreme weather events. So far, they have remained largely invisible and often unprotected. As indicated in the report “Children displaced in a changing climate,” released by UNICEF in October of this year, an average of 20,000 children have been displaced daily in the last six years due to climate-related events.

According to ‘Save the Children’, in 2022, more than 27 million girls and boys have been pushed into hunger and malnutrition due to extreme climate events in countries severely affected by the climate crisis, representing a 135% increase compared to the previous year. Most of these countries are located in the Horn of Africa, with Ethiopia and Somalia housing about half of the 27 million children suffering from hunger.

Despite representing one-third of the world’s population, and even half in some countries most exposed to climate impacts, children are being neglected in climate crisis mitigation efforts. According to UNICEF, over one billion children live in areas of extreme climate risk, but only 2.4% of funding from major multilateral climate funds is considered child-sensitive.

In an article reporting on its actions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, the Alana Institute highlights that children are also virtually invisible in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), with less than 50% prioritizing girls and boys. The NDCs are greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets set for each country in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

According to Alana Institute, COP28 in Dubai represents a new opportunity for children’s rights, including the right to participation, to be integrated into climate actions and UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) negotiations. Through their negotiators, countries will have the chance to put children at the center of decisions aimed at combating climate change and strengthening responses to other issues relevant to their rights, such as food and water insecurity, air pollution, biodiversity loss, poverty, forced displacement, and the lack of healthcare and education assistance.

Only at COP27, 30 years after the start of UNFCCC debates, were children and youth formally recognized as agents of change. The text approved in Egypt recommends the presence of boys and girls as representatives and negotiators in national delegations and in the design and implementation of policies and actions to combat climate change. However, no specific decision focused on their protection has been made so far.

Children’s Rights Coalition In Dubai

The Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI), a global coalition for children’s environmental rights that the Alana Institute is part of, will politically advocate for the Children’s Action Plan, which requires support from the United Nations and other stakeholders to uphold children’s rights and environmental protection and continue the work.

“Including children in discussions and declarations reinforces the urgency of addressing rights, intergenerational equity, and encourages the recognition of other parties’ issues. Another crucial point is to distinguish children and youth in debates and documents, addressing challenges, vulnerabilities, and specific issues faced by them,” states the coalition’s communication release.

The global coalition for children’s environmental rights proposes a series of initiatives to COP28 negotiators to prioritize children in climate discussions. Here are some of them:

In the final text

Recognize the specific vulnerability of children and suggest to the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) to promote dialogue among experts on children and climate change at SB60 in June 2024.

Global Assessment

Request that data be compiled by age and gender for use and disclosure, in addition to including measures that ensure children’s rights in climate action and policies, including the NDCs. Also emphasize the need for meaningful and safe child participation in decision-making processes at all levels.

Climate Financing

Comprehensive review of the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) to ensure children’s rights. Integrate provisions related to children’s rights into the work of the Funds and assistance to developing countries in meeting their climate action commitments through advisors from entities operating under the UNFCCC Financial Mechanism. Incorporate specific financing windows dedicated to children and seek gender-sensitive outcomes within the new Global Climate Finance Goal (NCGG).


Within the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), advance strategies focusing on children’s rights and the identification of global targets by theme.

Loss and Damage

Include children’s rights in the financial governance of loss and damage and in decision-making processes, contributing to more equitable and effective responses.

Just Transition

Prioritize climate action that protects children’s right to a healthy environment, implement social protection strategies that consider children, eradicate child exploitation, and recognize the value of the care economy.

Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food Security

Consider children’s rights within food production and consumption, nutrition, as well as cultural rights, and ensure that ocean-based climate action also promotes the protection of children’s rights.



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