At just 11 years old, Ridhima Pandey from Haridwar, India, was one of 16 children to file a CRC complaint to the UN child rights committee. This was a petition that called out the inaction of certain countries despite their knowledge of climate change’s devastating impacts and signing of the Child Rights Convention. Ridhima experienced a flash flood in her hometown when she was just five years old, and witnessed people crying over the loss of their homes and the destruction on the TV.
“I felt scared, because when I asked my mom the reason behind the flash floods, she explained to me about cloudbursts, and you know, what flash floods are,” Ridhima says in a video from the Human Rights Watch.
Thanks to the warming environment, cloudbursts have become more and more frequent, causing devastating flash floods like the one Ridhima experienced. After hearing this, she decided she had to take matters into her own hands and eventually was given the opportunity to join the CRC complaint. It seemed to Ridhima to be the perfect opportunity to teach the rest of the world a lesson and bring about positive change.
The children, all climate activists between the ages of 8 and 17, were turned down and told to take the issue up with national courts. Among the youth activists were the well known Greta Thunberg as well as Alexandra Villasenor, co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike.
“You know they make big dialogues, big promises, or their paperwork seems to be amazing. But the reality, the things on the ground, just say opposite to what they have been saying or what their reports have been saying,” says Ridhima, referencing the organizations they were protesting.
So the question is, when are children going to get the justice they deserve?
“The climate crisis is a children’s rights crisis,” said Scott Gilmore, a human rights lawyer at Hausfeld, the law firm who helped file the petition. And he’s absolutely right.
Children are heavily impacted by the effects of climate change, and we need to talk about it more. Millions of children are exposed to flash floods, cyclones, and severe droughts. Furthermore, children are more vulnerable to the psychological and physical impacts of climate change given their earlier stage of development. In 2014, 80% of the deaths from malaria, a disease made more frequent by rising temperatures, were children under the age of 5.
And this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. There’s more conversations we need to have about displacement, education rights, poverty, and the disproportionate effect climate change has on marginalized children.
“We kids are there, watching [the government], and we won’t accept the wrong things or the wrong deeds that they’re doing towards the environment and towards our future as well,” says Ridhima Pandey. One thing is crystal clear: it’s time for the government to start seriously listening to our younger generation before the damage is irreparable.