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26 November 2023

Young leaders from around Australia have released a powerful statement, which will be presented at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) and calls for the Australian Government to lift its ambitions in the fight against climate change.

The National Child and Youth Statement was prepared after five consultations with young people across the country. This process was led by a group of eight youth climate leaders and advocates from around Australia and supported by UNICEF Australia and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI). 

Improving climate finance and education, ensuring far-reaching adaptation to climate change, and supporting vulnerable neighbours in Asia and the Pacific region are among the key areas young people want the Australian Government to tackle. 

“Children and young people are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change,” the Statement reads. “We are more at risk of physical and mental health issues - having a higher chance of being directly impacted by environmental hazards and are more likely to be experiencing climate anxiety compared to other Australians. 

“Children and young people living in regional and rural areas of Australia are facing a particularly hard time, experiencing more extreme weather events and watching their way of life change rapidly.” 

This week thousands of people will gather in Dubai for the start of COP28 – UN Climate Change Conference, which brings together leaders in climate, across governments, business and UN agencies. The National Child and Youth Statement will form part of global youth policy discussions. 

Commenting on the release of the Statement, Nishadh Rego, Climate Advisor at UNICEF Australia said: “Climate change is changing childhood. For years, the world has watched the devastation resulting from climate-related disasters like bushfires and floods and impacts it is having on Australians including children, young people and our neighbours in the Pacific,” Mr Rego said. 

“We need to take urgent action, prioritising the needs and perspectives of children, who are the least responsible for this crisis, but bear the brunt of its impacts. COP28 – the UN Climate Change Conference provides an opportunity to include and strengthen the voices of young people and help them deal with a crisis they have not created. 

“UNICEF Australia wants to see governments including Australia be even more ambitious in their emissions reduction plans and prioritise children in global adaptation and finance commitments to tackling climate change.” 

MSDI Project Coordinator and Monash University COP28 Delegate, Isabelle Zhu-Maguire, was part of the LCOY Leadership Council, and led the all-day youth consultation session in Melbourne said: "COP28 is a pivotal moment for global climate action, and the National Child and Youth Statement ensures that the voices of young Australians are not only heard but integrated into the policy discourse. It is a call to action, urging governments to be ambitious and prioritise the well-being of children in the fight against climate change. 

“MSDI supported the creation of this statement to amplify the intelligence, passion and compassion of young people to the national and international conversations and decisions on climate change.” 

Here’s what three UNICEF Young Ambassadors who contributed to the National Child and Youth Statement had to say: 

• Luke McNamara, UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador (Canberra): “Our national youth statement attempts to unify the voices of young people to give our government a clear indication of the deep interest we have in climate change, the action we want to see to solve climate change, and the sense of hope we feel when it comes to being able to ensure our planet’s healthy future.” 

• Peta Pyrgiotis, UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador (NSW): “As a young Ethiopian woman living in Australia, I have seen the disproportionate impacts of climate change on Australians. I would love to see young people empowered to speak out and be included in global events such as COP where we can ensure climate is addressed as a human rights issue, not just an environmental issue." 

• Denzel James, UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador (South Australia): “I've come to understand the impact climate change has on our planet. I believe that the key to addressing this global challenge lies in our ability to open our eyes and ears to the realities of climate change. With great knowledge comes power, and with power, we can drive meaningful change for our future.” 

UNICEF is the UN organisation mandated to protect the rights of every child, everywhere, especially the most disadvantaged, and is the only organisation specifically named in the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a source of expert assistance and advice. 

Under Article 12, UNICEF is committed to creating opportunities for children and young people to participate and express their views in all matters affecting them. 

Notes to Editors: 

• Access the National Child and Youth Statement here

• COP28 - the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference - commences Thursday, 30 November, in Dubai, where UNICEF Australia will be speaking and raising the voices of young people. 

• The Local Conference of Youth involved four face to face consultations in Western Australia (Wadjuk Nyoongar), South Australia (Kaurna), Victoria (Naarm), and New South Wales (Gadigal), as well as an online consultation open to youth nation-wide.