The Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu today called for including a ‘child-centric’ approach in our response to climate change. He wanted the child rights to be interwoven into key national climate change and adaptation strategies, policies and planning documents.
He was addressing an online webinar- ‘Climate Parliament with Children’ organized by the ‘Parliamentarians’ Group for Children’ on the occasion of World Children’s Day today. The event aims to facilitate interaction between the parliamentarians and children on the crucial topic of climate change.
Recognizing that the children of today are far better informed than previous generations, he called for involving them in the conversation around climate change. He emphasised the need to raise awareness on climate change, its impacts and mitigation measures in schools and grassroots level to make the children change agents and transformational leaders of the future.
Stating WHO data, Naidu said climate change will cause lakhs of additional deaths every year and a majority of these deaths will occur among the children who are more susceptible to illness, injuries and malnutrition. “Children below 14 years form a quarter of the world’s population and they are one of the largest and most vulnerable groups that will be impacted by climate change”, he warned.
Referring to the increasing number of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, cyclones, wildfires, the Vice President said that continuous emission of greenhouse gases has done great damage to earth’s environment and its consequences threaten the very existence of humanity.
Describing the consequences of global warming such as an increase in heat stress and vector-borne diseases, the Vice President warned that changing climate will also threaten the world’s food security leading to hunger and malnutrition. Children will be the worst affected, he added.
Specifically mentioning the impact of climate change and disasters on children, Shri Naidu listed the malnutrition, closure of schools, increase in child labour and psychological trauma as possible results. “These conditions would be particularly severe in children living in poor and under-served areas”, he cautioned.
Recalling his childhood days, Naidu said that he had an opportunity to grow up in the clean air and a healthy environment which should not be denied to the kids today.
Stressing the need for sustainability, Naidu called for striking the necessary balance between development and environment. We have to preserve scarce resources and care for the generations to come, he said.
Reiterating the expert view that we only have a decade or so to influence the course of climate change before its adverse impacts become irreversible, the Vice President called upon the policymakers, leaders, parents and grandparents to collectively work for addressing this dire situation and usher a healthier environment for our children. “We cannot allow apathy or inaction to jeopardize our future”, he added.
In this regard, he appreciated the Government for several initiatives for environmental protection such as as- signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, focus on the installation of renewable energy and reduction in India’s emission intensity among others.
Naidu also expressed concerns over plastic pollution, especially in oceans, where nearly 50% of single-use plastic products end up, killing marine life and entering the human food chain. He asked everyone to support the Prime Minister’s call for eradicating single-use plastic from the country by 2022.
The Union Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, Convener of Parliamentarians’ Group for Children Vandana Chavan, UNICEF representative for India Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, several MPs, child rights activists and children were among those who participated in the virtual event.