Child Activists in Fight Against Climate Change

Child Activists in Fight Against Climate Change

Author: Shubhangi Gehlot
III Year | The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda


You might think that we are too young to know about the risks and realities of climate change[1]. But we see it affect our daily lives”, says Gertrude Clement, a 16-year-old young environmental activist from Tanzania. Greta Thunberg inspired her and many young activists globally to address climate change on a global platform. However, addressing is not enough without the assistance of the State and its authorities. Most importantly, State action is required to enable the youth to protect their rights.

The ramifications of climate change have certainly changed from just an environmental concern to a relevant social, political and economic concern. It threatens the basic survival elements such as health and education of most of the children. UNICEF also recognises the special status of children in this issue. A press report by UNICEF states,

Children are essential actors in responding to the climate crisis. We owe it to them to put all our efforts behind solutions we know can make a difference, such as reducing vulnerability to disasters, improving the management of water resources, and ensuring that economic development does not happen at the expense of environmental sustainability[2].

This article discusses the rise of children from different parts of the world in the fight against climate change. It also discusses the impact created by children-led movements in this regard. Further, it draws upon the best practices adopted by different countries. Lastly, it analyses the fight against climate change in the Indian context from a child-rights perspective.

Right to Advocacy:

Children are born as free as other human beings and deserve equal rights[3] regardless of their age and social experience. Thus, granting them the ‘Right to Advocacy’[4] to speak against anything affecting their future negatively is a step taken to empower children in the United Kingdom.

Educating the youth about climate change can certainly be the first step towards a country’s effective social and political efforts. On the other hand, activist demonstrations have been a vital aspect of Indian cases of environmental issues in the past. For example, Rural Litigation and Entitlement vs State of UP[5].

The instance of Mongolia can be considered a shining example of children’s advocacy, participation, and education. The children are trained to monitor the poor air quality of the area and also use the data collected to pressurize the government for immediate action[6]. Similarly, in countries like Liberia, Myanmar, and Canada, children and youth are considered as a vulnerable group. Therefore, they are made relevant stakeholders and agents for a better change in degrading environmental conditions[7].

Right to be Informed:

In addition, the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides both – freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas”[8] and “formation of peaceful assembly”[9].

Another equally crucial aspect is the need for awareness in this area. As observed in the case of Greta Thunberg, a “transformative effect” within a 16-year-old rose from school classes on climate change and gave it the form of a journey towards global change[10]. Thus, it is important to provide children with an education system that imparts knowledge of modern global issues including climate change and its impact.

In India, it is a part of the constitution as ‘Right to Education’[11], as a means of securing the right to development for children[12]. Recently, both Italy[13] and New Zealand[14] also prioritized climate change education in every school’s curriculum. Thus, they made the environment and children as core elements of a global society.

Growing Crisis for India’s Children:

India is facing an increased number of floods, droughts, and other calamities as a result of climate change. Consequently, it has lost more than 3000 lives, and seen the displacement of over 2 million people due to natural disasters[15]. As a result, it is the fifth most vulnerable country in the world to the impact of climate change[16]. The author believes that this depicts the lack of responsible implementation of sustainable development and environmental protection programs.

Besides, the unavailability of textbook knowledge in the calamity-prone areas, children lack general levels of awareness on climate change. Further, there is a lack of knowledge about its consequences and survival strategies[17]. Moreover, extreme weather conditions lead to the spread of diseases. Thus, diarrheal illnesses and vector-borne diseases are common health consequences for children with weak immune systems.


In conclusion, it is important to build an ecologically healthy place for the younger generation in India. However, it is not possible without disciplined governance, law, and political will. Especially in disseminating academic awareness on the issue of climate change and its effect on the entire nation and world. Hence, education is the most dominant feature in improving adaptive capacity to reduce every child’s helplessness.

Further, children must have the freedom to advocate and express to assist their demands and ideas to fight against climate change. So, parallels and comparisons from other countries which had already proposed an environment-friendly working for children can be highly effective for better implementation to achieve the goal of a better future for children of India. Moreover, guidance from the Committee on the Rights of the Child for the Government of India can facilitate in building a child-sensitive climate policy to enhance participation of all children regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, economic background, etc. at every level of the climate policymaking process.

Finally, The Paris Agreement which was ratified by India[18] not only directs towards acceptance of a landmark global action plan to tackle climate change, but also an official assurance to protect the rights of children and maintain intergenerational equity for a better and healthy future of young Indian generation.

[1] Youth for climate action: Elevating the voices of young people to protect the future of our planet, UNICEF (3rd March 2021, 5:53 PM) URL:

[2] ‘The climate crisis is a child rights crisis’: Fact Sheet, UNICEF (3rd March 2021, 5:57 PM) URL:

[3] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNITED NATIONS, (3rd March 2021, 6:00 PM) URL:

[4] Right to advocacy, ARTICLE 39, (4th March 2021, 5:47 PM) URL:

[5] Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State of U.P. & Ors. 1985 AIR 652.

[6] Youth for climate action: Elevating the voices of young people to protect the future of our planet, UNICEF (3rd March 2021, 5:53 PM) URL:

[7] Are climate change policies child-sensitive? UNICEF, (4th March 2021, 5:53 PM) URL:

[8] Article 13 (1) in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, OHCHR, (4th March 2021, 5:56 PM) URL:

[9] Article 15 (1) in the Convention on the Rights of the Children, OHCHR, (4th March 2021, 5:57 PM) URL:

[10] Jonathan Watts, Greta Thunberg, schoolgirl climate change warrior: ‘Some people can let things go. I can’t’, THE GUARDIAN (Dec. 3, 2020, 11 AM),

[11] Article 21A Right to Education, CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, (4th March 2021, 6:05 PM) URL:


[13] Berger, Miriam, Italy’s government becomes first to mandate climate change education in schools, THE WASHINGTON POST (Dec. 3, 2020, 12:30 PM),

[14] Graham-McLay, Charlotte, New Zealand schools to teach students about the climate crisis, activism and ‘eco anxiety’, THE GUARDIAN (Dec. 3, 2020, 3 PM),

[15] PWC, Save the Children, Protect a generation: Climate security for India’s children, pg. 24 (Oct 2020).

[16] Global Climate Risk Index 2020, GERMAN WATCH, (4th March 2021, 6:14 PM) URL:

[17] Berger, Miriam, Italy’s government becomes first to mandate climate change education in schools, THE WASHINGTON POST (Dec. 3, 2020, 12:30 PM), URL:

[18] India ratifies Paris climate pact at UN, brings its entry into force “tantalisingly close”, UNITED NATIONS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS, (4th March 2021, 6:28 PM) URL:

Editor: Adhya Sarna

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