Day 8, the first day of Week 2 of COP28 was themed as ‘Youth, Children, Education and Skill’ Day. But like each year, the expectations for fair youth and children representation was not met by the countries present for negotiation. Even the space within the formal COP event, such as plenaries and negotiations, was very negligible for youth and children. Nonetheless, it cannot be said that the representation was less than that of COP27 or the COPs before that.
Youth and children are most severely affected by the climate crisis but have little to no say in deciding their present and future, their only forum being to push for ambitious climate action within the formal spaces of COP. This points to the need for reforming the system to be more inclusive of youth, children, women, all-genders, Indigenous people, and the communities that are at the forefront of the climate crisis.
Extreme weather has internally displaced at least 43 million children in the past six years. As per UNICEF estimates, extreme heat events have displaced at least 12 million children in the year 2022 alone, likely a major undercount, and a billion children are at “extremely high risk” of the effects of the climate crisis.
In August, 2023, the UN Committee on Rights of Children adopted a guidance, formally known as General Comment No.26, has authoritative value over its 196 signatories and calls on governments for climate action, including phasing out of fossil fuels and transitioning to renewables in order to protect children’s rights, which are adversely affected by climate change. It says governments must uphold the rights of clean, healthy and sustainable environment for children.
Only two young speakers on Day 8 of COP28 from YOUNGO representing Climate Action Network & Demand Climate Justice, spoke in the plenary, demanding FAST, FAIR, FULL, FUNDED phaseout of fossil fuels, and people-driven, party-driven and not presidency or corporation-driven COPs for the future. Additionally to this, the presence of youth inside the Blue Zones, side-events and dialogues called for strong action from the negotiators, setting the demands of full fossil fuel phaseout, temperature below 1.5 degrees, operationalisation of Loss and Damage funds, response to the impacts of war on climate justice, social justice, rights of youth, children, women, and minorities.
With the slogans, like ‘Let’s Act Now’ and ‘Action Builds Trust’, at COP28 it seems the message is only for the youth and children, as the text on GST (Global Stocktake), Global Goal on Adaption, Loss & Damage Fund, & climate justice does not seem promising to keep the global temperature below 1.5 degree Celsius, and giving fair and equitable chance of survival for all.