Samoan climate activist welcomes UN's recognition of children's rights

A young Samoan climate activist says the UN's new guidance on children's rights to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is "the first step to global change".

The UN Committee have affirmed for the first time that climate change is affecting children's rights to life, survival and development.

'General Comment No. 26' specifies that countries are responsible not only for protecting children's rights from immediate harm, but also for foreseeable violations of their rights in the future.

It found the climate emergency, collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution - "is an urgent and systemic threat to children's rights globally".

Children have been at the forefront of the fight against climate change, urging governments and corporations to take action to safeguard their lives and the future, said committee member Philip Jaffé.

Samoan-born Anvia Clarke, 17, is an environmental activist based in New Zealand. She has been a climate advocate since 10 years old. Growing up in Samoa, she helped to amplify Pacific youth voices about climate change.

"Children and young people have been calling on action for so long and I think this is one of the many things and sort of products of that action working."

Clarke was one of 12 global youth advisors on the inaugural Children's Advisory Team, established to facilitate youth consultations on children's rights, the environment and climate change.

She said the comments "create a framework" that hold 196 UN countries to account.

"They have recognised that there is a call and need for action," she said.

Countries that have ratified the UN child rights convention are urged to take immediate action including towards phasing out fossil fuels and shifting to renewable energy sources, improving air quality, ensuring access to clean water, and protecting biodiversity.