CRC/C/GC/26 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Distr.: General 22 August 2023 Original: English Committee on the Rights of the Child General comment No. 26 (2023) on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change* I. Introduction 1. The extent and magnitude of the triple planetary crisis, comprising the climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution, is an urgent and systemic threat to children’s rights globally. The unsustainable extraction and use of natural resources, combined with widespread contamination through pollution and waste, have had a profound impact on the natural environment, fuelling climate change, intensifying the toxic pollution of water, air and soil, causing ocean acidification and devastating biodiversity and the very ecosystems that sustain all life. 2. The efforts of children to draw attention to these environmental crises created the motivation and were the momentum behind the present general comment. The Committee benefited immeasurably from the contributions of children at its 2016 day of general discussion on children’s rights and the environment. A diverse and dedicated children’s advisory team, comprising 12 advisors of between 11 and 17 years of age, supported the consultation process undertaken for the general comment, with 16,331 contributions from children, from 121 countries, through online surveys, focus groups and in-person national and regional consultations. 3. The children consulted reported on the negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change on their lives and communities. They asserted their right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment: “The environment is our life.” “Adults [should] stop making decisions for the future they won’t experience. [We] are the key means [of] solving climate change, as it is [our] lives at stake.” “I would like to tell [adults] that we are the future generations and, if you destroy the planet, where will we live?!”1 4. Child human rights defenders, as agents of change, have made historic contributions to human rights and environmental protection. Their status should be recognized, and their demands for urgent and decisive measures to tackle global environmental harm should be realized. 5. While the present general comment is focused on climate change, its application should not be limited to any particular environmental issue. New environmental challenges may arise in the future, for example, those linked to technological and economic development and social change. States should ensure that the present general comment is widely disseminated to all relevant stakeholders, in particular children, and is made available in multiple languages and formats, including age-appropriate and accessible versions. * Adopted by the Committee at its ninety-third session (8–26 May 2023). 1 See GE.23-11144 (E) 210823 220823

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