Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
THE CLIMATE CRISIS AND ITS IMPACT ON CHILDREN’S RIGHTS IN IRELAND – This is a report that we as a group of young people submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in support of its State review of Ireland’s progress in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This review happens every five years and the Committee asks for children and organisations representing children to share their views on how well children’s rights are being upheld. While many comprehensive reports were being written, as climate activists we felt the climate crisis was being ignored. So while the COVID pandemic kept us off the streets, we decided to get online and continue pushing for change by researching and drafting this report.
Climate Rights Ireland is a group of young people working with the support of UNICEF to investigate how the climate crisis interacts with children’s rights in Ireland. We are a team of young people, led by young people, who created this report on behalf of young people to the Committee for the Rights of the Child. We hope this report will catalyse change and drive a shift in Ireland’s performance on the climate crisis and children’s rights.
We have included key recommendations under each Article for the change the Irish government ought to deliver. Ultimately, we want systemic change that places the rights of children and the planet at the forefront. We want justice, equity, and a sustainable society. Our aim is that future reports do not need to highlight these issues and that this report can act as a mechanism for this change to be delivered.
In exploring the lived experience of children in Ireland regarding the climate crisis and the rural-urban divide, we found a disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on rural areas, and a need for the provision of necessary resources for those who are affected.
We consulted young people on
We believe our recommendations will work to reduce the disparity between rural and urban areas, and also increase the ability of children to access opportunities in education and employment.
This includes increased flooding and extreme weather events such as Storm Ophelia, which participants stated negatively affect their everyday lives.
Children outlined a negative impact on their mental health and sense of security resulting from this. This included:
There were also fears about children’s future and development.
How, if at all, has the climate crisis impacted your mental health and feeling of security?
Regarding support, children outlined a lack of adequate support for dealing with the climate crisis’ impacts.
It is clear that the climate crisis is having a negative impact on children’s mental health and sense of security, compounded by a lack of action. Participants also described a lack of adequate mental health support which, coupled with a lack of effective climate action, further damages children’s sense of security and safety.
The aim of this section is to illustrate, with the aid of statistics, how engaged and involved young people in Ireland feel in terms of climate action, climate policy, and decision-making.
The data below illustrates that young people do not feel listened to in climate policy in Ireland. Where spaces are created, their input is not meaningfully taken onboard. These spaces can be inaccessible, tokenistic, and lack impact. These must be reformed to provide accessibility, accountability, and support, as outlined in our recommendations.
The key answer from Focus Groups and the survey about whether the government listened to young people was no.
80% of participants felt there were barriers preventing young people from being heard on the climate crisis. Below are quotes from participants describing this issue:
The overwhelming call from participants was one for accountability, accessibility, and support to solve this issue.
The Irish government must be accountable to young people and translate their input into real policy, rather than a box-ticking exercise.
The government should provide clear and accessible mechanisms for young people to engage with their decision-makers.
This part of the report deals with the connection between the climate crisis and refugee children in Ireland, in particular children living in Direct Provision. To conduct our research, we met with members of Abolish Direct Provision (DP) to communicate the lived experience of children impacted in this area.
According to UNICEF’s Report Card 17 Places and Spaces, Ireland ranks in the top three countries for providing a healthy environment for children within its national boundaries. Despite this, it ranks only 20th out of 39 wealthy countries for protecting the world’s environment for children. Ireland has high rates of emissions, e-waste and consumption which contribute to this low ranking. If everyone in the world consumed resources at the rate of people in Ireland, we would require the equivalent of more than three earths to satisfy this.
Alongside Ireland’s impact on the health of children and the world environment, there are significant environmental concerns for children’s health at home. One child in 50 (2%) is being poisoned by lead, one of the most dangerous environmental toxic substances. Lead is globally responsible for more deaths than malaria, war and terrorism, or natural disasters. Additionally, one in six (16.6%) poor households with children find it difficult to heat their home, an issue which is likely to become more pronounced as the energy and climate crises grow.
Ireland’s children are facing significant environmental impacts and concerns, as we have discussed, including impacts on their homes, security and well-being. Ireland’s environmental record is also threatening the health of children worldwide and it is among the top contributors to pollutants destroying the global environment.
1 Ireland must reduce its waste output, air and water pollution and invest in sustainable practices such as high-quality housing and public transport.
2 Ireland must improve environments for the most vulnerable children, and ensure these children are heard in policymaking.
3 Ireland must put children’s rights at the forefront of environmental policy.
4 The government ought to address loss and damage resulting at home and abroad from climate change and work with other governments to do so.
5 The government must recognise and implement the right to a healthy environment.
6 Implementation of the recommendations in this report, alongside continued meaningful stakeholder engagement.
This report is the product of consultation with a large group of young people from across Ireland. It is imperative that young people, especially those who are not often heard by those in power, are engaged and consulted at every step along the way to a Just Transition.
It is clearly evident that adequate action is not being delivered in the four areas examined throughout this report. However, there is still time for a radical shift in the right direction. We have presented our ideas for change through our recommendations, and we ask that our government deliver upon these. Now, more than ever, we need an evolution in our way of thinking in order to deliver a better, brighter future.
In order to make sure our data was as representative of the population as possible, including children of all backgrounds and levels of familiarity with the climate crisis, we collected research through a variety of methods.
We conducted a survey of children across Ireland regarding Articles 2, 6, and 12. The survey included questions around participation, impacts of the climate crisis, feelings of security, and much more. The full survey can be viewed here.
The survey was shared across youth activism networks as well as our social media page. With the aim of reaching young people not already involved in the climate movement, we reached out to organisations, that work with young people, who kindly shared our survey with their networks.
When we closed the survey, we validated all responses to ensure they were from young people and to avoid duplicate responses.
On August 16th, 2021, we held an online event with Focus Groups of young people from across Ireland to discuss Articles 2, 6, and 12. The Focus Groups were formed through an open sign-up online on our social media and shared with a variety of youth organisations.
The groups discussed Article 12 in the morning, and Articles 2 and 6 in the afternoon. Discussions were centred around prompt questions drafted by the group and evolved from these. We used collaborative online tools such as Mural to allow participants to work together in real time. These virtual whiteboards were then used to ensure our data captured what the young people were saying to the best of our ability.
To collect data regarding Direct Provision, its link with the climate crisis, and its impacts on children’s rights, we contacted Abolish Direct Provision- a group working to further the rights and protections of those living in Direct Provision. They kindly agreed to meet with us and conducted an interview, centred around the issue of the climate crisis and the rights of refugees We recorded their answers and have compiled this alongside secondary data.
We received input from the ISSU Debate Your Decision-Makers event in April 2021 and conducted secondary research throughout this report.
Áine Dempsey is a 19-year-old climate activist from county Clare. She is currently studying for her Bachelor in Civil Law at Dublin City University. Áine began her journey in climate activism in 2019, organising her first school strike for climate justice as a member of Fridays for Future. She went on to act as a delegate for Clare in the RTE Youth Assembly on Climate in 2019, where her proposal ‘outlawing acts of ecocide in Ireland’ was selected by her fellow delegates to feature on the Assembly’s declaration. Áine had the opportunity to discuss her work on the RTE programme EcoEye in 2020 and looks forward to publishing this report.
Beth Doherty is a 19-year-old activist from Dublin. She first got involved in the climate movement in February 2019 as an organiser of the school strikes. She attended the Climate Case Ireland Supreme Court hearing in July 2020, which overturned Ireland’s climate legislation, and has also represented Irish second-level students as the Sustainability Officer of the ISSU. She is currently studying Law at the University of Cambridge, working on advocacy within the university as well as conservation of the poles. She sees this report as a key mechanism for ensuring the voices of young people are represented and protected in decision-making on the climate crisis.
Caitlin Faye Maniti
Caitlin Faye Maniti is an 18-year-old student activist from Donegal. Through her involvement in Green schools at a Primary and Secondary school level, she fostered her passion for climate justice slowly but surely. In 2019, she became more active; taking part as a delegate at the RTE Youth Assembly for Climate, advocating to students’ rights as an elected officer for the Irish Second Level Students Union(ISSU) and so much more. Currently, she has helped highlight the power of rural young voices and climate activism in her region. Caitlin had success in implementing the An Taisce #love30 Campaign in her town, bringing awareness about the MICA Crisis and its effects on students and uplifting students’ voices as a member of the ISSU.
Jessica Dunne is a 17-year-old student activist from Dublin, Ireland. She got involved in activism through the climate crisis and this led to her becoming involved in general activism, realising the connectivity between all social injustice. She is a member of Fridays For Future, working on a local, national, and international level. She was the DLR regional officer for the Irish Second-Level Students Union from 2019 to 2021 and she is a TEDx speaker and mentor, giving a talk stressing the importance of intersectionality in 2020.
My name is Rose Guy. I am 18 years old and studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Theresa Rose Sebastian
Theresa Rose Sebastian is an 18-year-old climate & social justice activist. She is of South Indian heritage but has also resided in Ireland for many years. Theresa has been involved in climate activism ever since the summer of 2018 when her state of Kerala was flooded by torrential rains that swept destruction & death throughout the land she called home. Ever since she’s been actively organising and channelling change throughout national & international systems. This report is the product of the values of youth power, climate justice & community organising that she and her fellow co-writers share and strongly believe in.
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