Climate change is an urgent and serious threat confronting us. However, children and youth, constituting nearly half of the world’s population, face greater climate and disaster risks. Whether they like it or not, it is their generation who will endure the unprecedented consequences of environmental degradation and changing climate if kept unabated. On the other hand, children and youth of less developed countries are considered more vulnerable. Climate change aggravates their tenuous conditions ascribed to existing geographical, social, political, and economic challenges. Almost 85 percent of the world’s youth live in developing countries and about 87 percent inhabit in countries inflicted by poverty, hunger, disease, and violence (UNICEF 2007, UN 2010).
Researches conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) show that the well-being, of children and youth are at stake due to climate change impacts. Undernutrition, accounting for 3.5 million deaths annually, worsens as droughts and floods diminish food production. Vector-borne and waterborne diseases such as dengue and malaria, which result in high mortality especially on young children, propagate further as temperature rises.
The breakdown of social and economic structures leads to the decline in access to education, displacement of families, loss of livelihoods, and poverty rate upsurge (UNICEF 2007).
Filipino children and youth, who accounts for one third of the population, are already experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change. Incidence of climate-sensitive diseases such as dengue dramatically increases with young people as primary victims. Typhoons, flooding and landslides also cause injuries and even loss of lives. Likewise, climate change hampers school and livelihood productivity. Documented anecdotes in some coastal and marine communities show that rising sea temperature causes difficulty in fishing forcing parents to make their children work as well; thus, encumbering education as children eventually stop schooling to toil and save more (UNICEF 2007, UN 2010).
Different children and youth groups are already making significant contributions to combat climate change. In the recent Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Filipino youth representatives with their dynamism and zeal actively participated in the negotiations. Youth-led programs and organizations are also instigated in support of the advocacy on climate change. Nevertheless, despite existing children and youth initiatives, there is still a need to promote awareness and empower the youth in order for them to undertake a more proactive role in decision-making processes and program development to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Children and youth are key agents of change. It is of prime importance to consult and engage them in shaping climate change policies and programs of the government. This is in recognition of their higher vulnerability to the dangerous impacts of climate change and environmental degradation and, at the same time, their capacity as climate change advocates, movers and researchers.
The Climate Change Commission, as the leading government institution on climate change, acknowledges the importance of the role of children and youth in addressing the impacts of climate change. Section 13-D of Republic Act No. 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009 mandates the identification of differential impacts of climate change on children, among others.
A platform shall be provided to involve them in developing policies and programs of the Commission and influencing the position of the country in international negotiations.