Africa: Children Call on Leaders to Put Them First in Climate Action #AfricaClimateHope

Nairobi, Kenya — “We do not want adults to feel sorry for us. We want to be included in finding solutions,” said Phillipa Cride Dole, a young climate activist and child advocate from Sierra Leone.

Dole is one of many children who have been affected by climate change. She has seen her community ravaged by droughts and floods, crops destroyed, and families forced to flee their homes. Now, she is speaking out on behalf of all children who are suffering from the climate crisis. She is calling on world leaders to take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the planet for future generations.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to address you, the African leaders, after two days of important discussions. We all agree that climate change is a child rights crisis,” she said.

“Even though children contribute the least to climate change, we are the ones who are most affected by its impacts. In Malawi and Mozambique, cyclones have damaged schools and hospitals. In Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan, droughts have caused girls to be sold into early marriage. In Nigeria and Sierra Leone, climate-related displacement has forced families to move, leading to child labour.”

A group of children from across Africa, who had seen firsthand the devastating effects of climate change, delivered a passionate plea for action at the closing of the Africa Climate Summit.

In a powerful declaration, the children called for action on climate change. They are demanding that their voices be heard and that measures be put in place to protect them from the adverse effects of the crisis. The declaration, which was adopted by thousands of children, states that “children are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They are at risk of food insecurity, water scarcity, extreme weather events, and displacement”.

The children are also calling for decision-makers to fulfill the promises they have made to the electorate. They are demanding that governments take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a clean energy economy.

“Governments must ensure that children are meaningfully engaged at all levels of decision-making processes on climate change issues and other issues affecting them,” the declaration states.

“We are so near to achieving our goals. We need finance to keep our schools running, provide cheap and innovative healthcare, and protect our children. If you give us technology, we will give you the solutions for our water, agriculture, sanitation, and child protection. We can also contribute to the climate discussion, Dole said. “We were not included in the planning of this summit, but we ask that you change your ways. Let us build Africa for every child.”

Climate change a child rights crisis in Africa

Africa has been hit hard by climate change in recent years. A new United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, “Time to Act: African Children in the Climate Change Spotlight”, has found that children in Africa are disproportionately affected by climate change, despite the region contributing minimally to global carbon emissions.

The report, which was published ahead of the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, found that children in 48 of the 49 African countries for which data is available are at “high” or “extremely high” risk from the extreme weather, illnesses, pollution, and environmental degradation caused by climate change. But they are receiving a fraction of the climate finance they need to adapt, survive, and respond to the crisis.

“Children living in the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, Somalia, and Guinea-Bissau are the most at risk,” UNICEF added. “The countries most at risk from climate change are also those with the weakest health, nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. This makes children in these countries even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as they are less able to access essential services such as safe drinking water, education, and protective services during extreme weather events.”

UNICEF estimates that one billion children around the world are at “extremely high” risk of suffering the effects of the climate crisis, which the organisation has called a “children’s rights crisis.

The report warns that failing to act now will not only make the immediate problems worse but will also make it harder to recover in the long run and will lead to greater social inequality and political instability.

Africa Climate Summit ends with a call for action

African leaders adopted a joint “Nairobi Declaration” at the close of the landmark Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. The declaration highlights Africa’s potential as a green powerhouse and calls on world leaders to support new global carbon taxes and financial reforms to help African countries. The declaration also calls for a reduced debt burden for African countries so that development is not at the expense of climate action. Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change, yet it receives only about 12% of the nearly U.S.$300 billion in annual financing it needs to cope.

Kenyan President William Ruto called on the global community to address the unjust nature of international development financial institutions and governance frameworks. He said that the international community must “exercise a level of imagination in governance and climate action that is commensurate with the imperative to overcome the immense existential challenges of our time.”

However, the declaration has received mixed reactions. Activists, members of civil society, energy, and health experts have criticised it for not being inclusive and radical enough, reports Down to Earth.  Nigerian activist Priscilla Achakpa, founder of the Nigeria-based Women Environmental Programme, denounced carbon markets as a “bogus solution” to climate change. She said that these markets would force developing countries to sacrifice their land and green spaces to offset pollution in wealthy countries.

A new report released by Power Shift Africa and partners on the sidelines of the summit dismissed Africa’s carbon markets initiative as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” The report details why Africa should not adopt carbon credits, arguing that they would benefit wealthy countries at the expense of African communities.