Home » Children, young people and forests connected to combat climate change

Donna Goodman, Bruno Maia (Earth Child Institute), Satya S. Tripathi (UNORCID) and Angelica Shamerina (GEF SGP UNDP)

“Children are not a secret weapon or tool, they own this planet. We can learn from children, who can do a better job than we, as adults are doing today.”

-H.E. Mr. Heru Prasetyo, Head of the National REDD+ Agency of the Republic of Indonesia

Children under the age of 18, a population of 2.2 billion, are significantly affected by challenges created by earlier generations. Deforestation and environmental degradation are leading to scarcity of water, food, energy, severe natural disasters and forced migration. These are impacting their right to a healthy, productive and dignified life. By 2025, today’s children will represent more than half of the world’s workers and leaders, and will be major decision-makers in their communities and countries. International policymakers who are negotiating toward a greener and climate-resilient society, cannot do so without prioritising children and young people as vital stakeholders.

To raise awareness of the rights, needs and capacities of children related to climate change and sustainable development more broadly, Earth Child Institute (ECI) and partners, have launched a global programme called the Power of One Child + One Tree = A Sustainable Future for All. The programme empowers students to immerse themselves in environmental education through experiential learning in school-based tree nurseries, which are then able to provide saplings to community members. Students develop the capacity to understand ecological processes through hands on experiences, beyond an academic understanding of climate change issues.

Through the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has recognised children and youth have unique insights into how to deal with climate change and can take leadership roles in promoting low emission and climate resilient development. Tapping their energy and ideas, SGP has helped young people channel their creative enthusiasm into concrete actions to help their communities to transition to a low carbon and climate resilient future.

Because sharing knowledge and lessons learned is important to effective education for adaptation to local challenges and situations across different schools and communities in diverse social, cultural, and economic settings, ECI initiated the Global Action Classroom (GAC), a youth-led platform for sharing ideas and stories through digital exchange. Crossing borders to foster learning and collaboration, the GAC network includes child participation from Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Qatar, US and Seychelles.

In Indonesia, a country where one third of the population is below 12 years old, and around half is under 30, children and young people are a key entry point for building the foundations for a green economy transition through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).  Indonesia’s National REDD+ Agency recognises this and is working to harness the transformative power of young people through its Green Schools programme. The intention is to support schools and teachers in providing a form of education sufficiently rich, dynamic and hands-on to meet the challenge of sustainability. The types of values and knowledge required for REDD+ success are encouraged and passed on not only through the curricula of REDD+ Green Schools, but also through their pedagogy, their infrastructure, and their engagements with the wider community. With a view to recognising champions among the youth, the UN System is working with the National REDD+ Agency to identify and nurture 1 million Green Youth Ambassadors throughout the country by 2017.

To further these goals and to raise awareness to these issues, Earth Child Institute, UN Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (UNORCID); UNDP GEF SGP, FAO YUNGA; Taiwan Youth Climate Change Network; GEYK from Korea; ANIA, and Asian Youth Constituency co-organized a side event on the margins of UNFCCC 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20), on Young and Future Generations Day, 4 December 2014. Outcomes of this event called upon Governments, Donors, Private Sector and Civil Society to:

  1. Increase understanding about how children and youth can be empowered to local, regional and international action when equipped with the necessary skills and environment;
  2. Develop indicators to monitor and evaluate the local actions of children and young people, using such means as interactive media to promote transparency while connecting and sharing experiences;
  3. Build consensus and allocate resources (financial and technical) to create a network of organisations (youth-led and those working with and for children) around the world.


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