On 28 August 2023, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) published its general comment n°26 on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change.
The CRC is a United Nations treaty-based body that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its States parties. The CRC also publishes general comments on thematic issues reflecting the CRC’s interpretation of the content of provisions in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In its general comment n°26 on children’s rights and the environment, the Committee “emphasizes the urgent need to address the adverse effects of environmental degradation, with a special focus on climate change, on the enjoyment of children’s rights, and clarifies the obligations of States to address environmental harm and climate change”. Most importantly, the Committee confirms that children have a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. It goes even further by asserting that States have an obligation to facilitate, promote and provide for the enjoyment by children of this right and other rights related to the environment.
It should be noted that the draft of the general comment did not mention the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as such. The Global Pact Coalition, along with other members of civil society, had strongly advocated for the recognition of this right in the final version of the general comment. In its written observations, the Global Pact Coalition noted that “it is vital to integrate the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment into children’s rights”.
The recognition of the children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment by the Committee in the final version of the general comment n°26 constitutes an important victory for the protection of this right and the environment. Not only does it support the earlier recognition of the right to a healthy environment by the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council, but it also showcases a growing consensus on the matter at the United Nations level.
The Global Pact Coalition is proud to have contributed through its written observations to the final document of the Committee. The general comment n°26 will constitute an important tool to provide guidance to States as they implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and as they revise their relevant policies.