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The Youth Climate Justice (YCJ) project, funded by the European Research Council*, involves an interdisciplinary, global team undertaking transnational research on child and youth climate action inside and outside legal systems. 

All across the world, children and young people are standing up for their rights and leading different types of climate action such as taking legal action, protesting, or taking action at home, school, in the community, and online. This reveals the paternalism of much of our approach to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC). The project investigates whether we are experiencing ‘post-paternalism’ in children’s rights. We use the word post-paternalism to describe grassroots action from children and youth for the first time, on a global scale, rather than well-meaning adults ‘giving’ children and youth their rights. We are examining whether we can rethink approaches to the UN CRC with children and youth as leaders, reflecting the disruption of their climate action.  

The Youth Climate Justice project is partnered with both the School of Law and the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at UCC and is led by Principal Investigator Professor Aoife Daly. 

By the end of this five-year project, we aim to have achieved the following: 

  • Publication of a database of the most relevant and important child and youth climate cases (including children's rights breakdowns) that can be used by academics, practitioners, activists, and children alike.  
  • Creation of a Youth Climate Justice Network that brings together academics, practitioners, and youth for research and events.
  • Interviews with young climate case litigants to determine how to achieve child friendly climate justice
  • A number of workshops with climate advocate children across the world where they reflect on what their action means for human rights and intergenerational justice.
  • Embedding Child-Friendly Climate Justice (CFCJ) practitioner guidelines into a ‘live’ climate case. 
  • Elaboration of the new theory of Prof Daly – post paternalism. This argues that grassroots climate action from children/youth for the first time, on a global scale means that we have to rethink how we approach and interpret children’s rights/UNCRC.

*Funded by the European Union (ERC, 101088453). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them. 

External Publications

Intergenerational rights are children's rights: Upholding the right to a healthy environment through the UNCRC

This article reflects on intersections between intergenerational equity, children's rights and the rights of future generations. Recent climate cases involving children and youth are considered, and the fact that few rely on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is analysed. It is emphasised that intergenerational rights are children's rights – children are a crucial link between current and future generations. In particular the principle of the best interests of the child, which is widespread in national legal systems, should be relied upon more frequently in climate cases. Arguments can be made that failing to accord sufficient attention to children's rights and interests in climate policies violates the best interests principle. Relying on the CRC may increase the chance of successful outcomes in environmental and climate cases; progressing the right to a healthy environment for all. It will also ensure that adequate attention for children's rights is embedded in such cases.

Line to full journal article here


Climate Competence: Youth Climate Activism and Its Impact on International Human Rights Law

Those who are under-18 are not often associated with the exercise of political rights. It is argued in this article however that youth-led climate activism is highlighting the extensive potential that children and young people have for political activism. Moreover, youth activists have come to be seen by many as uniquely competent on climate change. Youth activists have moved from the streets to the courts, utilising national and international human rights law mechanisms to further their cause. They are not the first to do so, and the extent of their impact is as yet unclear. Nevertheless, it is argued here that through applications such as Saachi (an application to the Committee on the Rights of the Childand Duarte Agostinho (an application to the ECtHR) they are shifting the human-centric, highly procedural arena of international human rights law towards an approach which better encompasses person-environment connections.

Link to full journal article here.


Children/youth climate advocates 'doing' rights themselves: Post-paternalism for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?

Child/youth climate advocacy reveals the paternalism of much of our approach to the CRC. We are experiencing ‘post-paternalism’, I suggest here, involving grassroots action from children (for the first time, on a global scale), rather than well-meaning adults ‘giving’ children their rights. Future approaches to the CRC must reflect this.

Link to blog post here.