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The climate crisis is also a child rights crisis
  1. Haytham Ali1,
  2. Alison Firth2,
  3. Alison Leaf3,
  4. Cinthu Vivehananthan4,
  5. Dhurgshaarna Shanmugavadivel5,
  6. Ekundayo Ajayi-Obe6,
  7. Jay Halbert7,
  8. Jenny Harper Gow8,
  9. Mia Thomas9,
  10. Paula de Sousa10,
  11. Tony Waterston11,
  12. Bernadette O'Hare12
  1. 1 Neonatal Division, Sidra Medicine, Doha, Qatar
  2. 2 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, London, UK
  3. 3 Global Child Health, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  4. 4 Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  5. 5 Academic Unit of Population and Lifespan Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  6. 6 Department of Paediatrics and Neonatology, Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  7. 7 Department of Paediatrics, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, Maidstone, UK
  8. 8 Department of Paediatrics, Gloucester Royal Hospital, Gloucester, UK
  9. 9 Department of Paediatrics, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds, UK
  10. 10 Department of Paediatrics, Evelina London Children's Hospital, London, UK
  11. 11 International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  12. 12 Division of Infection and Global Health, The School of Medicine, The University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bernadette O'Hare, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 9AJ, UK; bamo{at}

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The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) recently published a new position statement on the climate crisis ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (the 26th Conference of the Parties or COP26).1 The statement reminds us that children have the right to health, including healthcare and other fundamental economic and social rights. A child rights-based approach builds on a human rights approach but includes the specific needs of children. Furthermore, many international agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, affirm countries’ commitments to a human rights-based approach to development and climate action. Thus, the negative impacts of climate change on children trigger obligations among those responsible, for both mitigation and adaptation.2

The RCPCH position statement says:

All children have the right to clean air, safe water, sanitation, affordable and nutritious food, and shelter. Yet millions of children in the UK and globally do not have access to these critical health determinants—a situation that will be worsened by climate change.

Air pollution will impact almost all children in all parts of the world. Nearly all children in the world breathe poor quality air and, in 2016, 300 000 children aged less than 5 years died because of ambient air pollution, and a further 400 000 died as a result of household air pollution.1 Children breathe faster, so they inhale more airborne toxicants in proportion to their weight at a time when their organs are still forming. Exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy and childhood can have harmful and irreversible effects on the development of the lungs and other organs and …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.