Madrid, 9 December 2019
My dear Mary,
and distinguished activists from all over the world,
Greetings to all of you, and let me say how glad I am to be here, to be able to thank you, profoundly, for your determination and clarity. I particularly thank the representatives of Governments that have signed the Declaration on children's rights and climate change.
The struggle for climate justice – and effective, urgent climate action – is a struggle for human rights. Young people, in particular, have been at the forefront of this movement recently – marching peacefully and persistently; engaging in strategic litigation; helping to devise climate solutions; overturning obstacles and overcoming threats.
Many young people are angry about the failure by leaders – of government, business and institutions – to act on the realities that all of us can see. Climate change is already underway, destroying lives, vital infrastructure and ecosystems. No country, no economy, and no community will be spared from impact. There is no room for denial – or business as usual – in the face of these facts. Our world, our lives, and your future is at stake.
Young people – including young people under the age of 18 – have a right to participate in decision-making. The Convention on the Rights of the Child demands this. The Paris Agreement re-affirms it. I am glad to see young people asserting this right – in courtrooms and on the street, at the United Nations and in Parliaments – to demand more effective climate action.
My Office will continue to work for your right to express your views, and to have those views taken into account, in climate action at all levels – including here at COP25, where we must push to realize the full potential of the Action for Climate Empowerment agenda.
We will continue to advocate and assist Governments around the world to take real and urgent action to address the disproportionate effects of the climate crisis on the rights of children and youth – particularly those in vulnerable communities, whose voices are stifled by poverty or discrimination.
We will intensify our work with business, investment institutions, and States to ensure that all business actors adopt human rights standards throughout their operations – from the supply of raw materials to the distribution and impact of the goods they sell.
And we will continue to work for a swift and just transition to a green economy – one in which you, and future generations, will be able to thrive and grow.
I understand the despair and rage so many young people – and older ones, too – are feeling. All of us know the facts, but so far there has been far too little real action. Your advocacy is helping to change that – and it is a real force for hope for all of us.
Climate justice is important, because climate change discriminates. The people and communities who are being most profoundly affected by climate change are those who already suffer discrimination – because of poverty, discrimination on the basis of sex, indigenous status, disability or minority status – and because they have been displaced.
A study published by Nature in October indicates that land that is currently home to some 150 million people will be "permanently below the high tide line" within 30 years. Where will all those families find shelter, services, food, a new life?
Our work – your work – to ensure climate justice is vital.
We need to effectively address climate threats with internationally coordinated responses that are based on equity, and a just transition to more appropriate economic structures. We need incentives, regulations, and laws to protect our human rights, including the right to a healthy environment. We need to implement massive energy efficiency and conservation practices, and root out the discrimination which exposes people and communities to climate harms. We need capacity building and financial assistance.
We need to implement the principle of intergenerational equity that the Paris Agreement explicitly lays out.
We need to ensure that all people – including children – have access justice and remedy when their rights are violated, and the right to participate in making decisions.
We need to protect climate activists from threats and harm.
And above all, we need to act, to preserve our planet and protect your future.