Sixteen children, including Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg, announced on the same day as the UN's climate summit that they had filed a complaint with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child alleging that five countries violated their rights by not doing enough to address the climate crisis.
“World leaders are failing to protect the rights of the child by continuing to ignore the climate and ecological crisis,” Thunberg said at a press conference hosted at UNICEF headquarters across the street from the UN in New York.
Shortly before the announcement, Thunberg had called out world leaders on their inaction at the UN Climate Action Summit, stating that they had stolen her dreams and her childhood with "empty words".
"I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?" she told world leaders.
The five countries named in the complaint—Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey—have all ratified an additional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that allows children to petition the UN directly.
“None of the five is on a path needed to keep the planet from heating to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius,” the children state on a website created to provide information about the complaint.
The complaint alleges that these major economies, all members of the G20, are not doing enough to reduce emissions and keep global temperature rise to below 3 degrees Celsius.
It also states that the countries are not working hard enough economically and diplomatically to "protect children" from the top carbon dioxide emitters.
Those top emitters such as the United States, China, and India were not named by the petitioners, because they have not signed the optional protocol that allows children to bring complaints to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
All of the petitioners are under the age of 18 and they come from 12 different countries.
They are being represented by law office Hausfeld LLP and non-profit organisation Earthjustice.
Alexandria Villaseñor, a 14-year-old American climate activist, announced their plan to file the complaint, stating that the children’s human rights had been violated.
“I am here because climate change is destroying my islands through sea-level rise and storms,” said 16-year-old Ranton Anjain who comes from the Marshall Islands.
Germany, which was named as one of the five countries by the petitioners, recently agreed on a climate protection deal through 2023 worth more than €50 billion. It adds a carbon price and provides bigger incentives to buy electric cars.
Environmental critics have said, however, that the deal doesn't go far enough to prevent at least 1.5 degree Celsius warming.