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Children, Youth, and the Environment

Environmental degradation and climate change threaten the rights and futures of children most. We fight for the right of every child to a healthy, sustainable planet with a focus on changing hearts and minds, amplifying the voices of young people in environmental conservation, and supporting the role of youth in combating environmental devastation.

Children and youth are impacted most by environmental change

Global climate change, environmental degradation, and the destruction of ecosystems pose a profound threat to the livelihoods of all people – but they especially compromise the rights and futures of children and youth, who will be inheriting a planet changing in historic ways and one whose resources are under immense strain. With decades ahead of them, they have the most to gain or lose when confronted with continued environmental challenges – challenges that will only rise as the world’s population and our associated environmental impact, exacerbated by unsustainable practices, continue to increase at a rapid rate.

The role of children and youth in the environment needs to be at the core of policy, advocacy, and action on the environment. Their rights and interests must be considered. Children and youth, as the generation that will contend with the consequences of decisions made today on the environment and climate change, need to be included in this process, engaged, and heard. Business, public policy, and community-based responses to climate change and environmental degradation must be built with a focus on youth: on sustainable solutions that will sustain the challenges and growth apparent in the lifetimes of today’s children. Every child deserves a healthy, sustainable future – and it is up to all of us, young and old, now to deliver.

Likewise, children & youth are partners in advocacy and solutions for the environment. With respect to their role as future decision-makers, building a generation of young people who understand and are prepared to meet the challenges of an environment under strain is an extensive investment in a more sustainable future. And even today, with their unique perspective, children and youth can play a critical role helping societies build better and more sustainable environmental solutions. Children and youth can be leaders in our response to environmental change – and societies should not waste the opportunity presented by their potential and capacity for innovation.

With so much to lose, children and youth should not be relegated as bystanders as the world works to combat environmental change. Extending leadership in advancing the role of children & youth in the environment – all as part of the fight for a more sustainable world – remains one of the IAYG family’s largest and most important sectors of work.

Our Focus

The IAYG family’s leadership in youth and the environment centres on empowering children as catalysts of change and advancing the rights of children & youth in the conversation on global sustainability. As delineated in the IAYG Family’s General Framework on Action for Children and the Environment (ACE), the institution’s general framework from 2017-2020 in this sector of work, our commitment to children, youth, and the environment is based on two central principles.

First, the right to a healthy, sustainable planet is a fundamental component of global opportunity. Societies depend on the environment – agricultural land, forests, rivers, lakes, and associated ecosystems – for food, water, shelter, and a way of life. Environmental change and resources under strain pose an existential threat to global opportunity; consequently, preserving the conditions under which young people can learn, live, engage, and lead is essential to the IAYG family’s vision. In response, we represent and advocate for young people impacted by climate change, illustrate the impact of climate and environmental decisions on the livelihoods of youth, and educate the general public on the impact of environmental change on young people.

Second, as the champion of a new generation of globally connected, engaged young people educated to lead, we recognize education on the environment, climate change, and sustainability as fundamental to our mandate of empowering youth. In alignment with IAYG family efforts to extend global and geographic education, we work as one of the world’s largest architects of environmental and climate change education – from directly educating young people on sustainability to helping implement national educational policy on climate change. We invest in young people as catalysts of change in climate action by operationalizing youth-driven innovation on environmental solutions. Through GIYS and other IAYG family efforts, including those conducted with partners, we mobilize vast communities of children and youth in combatting environmental devastation, especially in efforts that seek to mitigate the impact of environmental change on children themselves.

These two principles will remain at the centre of the IAYG family’s work putting youth at the forefront of a more sustainable future in 2019 and 2020. As is true across all IAYG family operations, we also leverage partnerships across all sectors to widen the impact of our efforts on the ground, while providing leadership in research and knowledge-gathering to all stakeholders combatting environmental degradation. These commitments will continue to expand through and beyond 2020, when the IAYG family launches a revised framework on youth and the environment.

Discover some of the IAYG family’s work in children, youth, and the environment:

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