Children take to the canvas to advocate for climate change in UN campaign

23 October 2008

The global campaign ‘UNite to Combat Climate Change’ kicked off today at United Nations Headquarters in New York with the unveiling of a children’s art exhibition showcasing a powerful plea from the young for leadership on climate change before it is too late.

The Paint for the Planet event features a selection of stand-out entries from a collection of nearly 200,000 paintings from the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) children’s painting competitions around the world.

Coinciding with the release of a survey of young people’s opinions on climate change in the United States, India, Russia and South Africa, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner presented figures today that 86 per cent of the polled respondents think that leaders should do “whatever it takes” to tackle global warming.

“The world is in the hands of old people, but the future is in the hands, minds and imagination of the young,” said Mr. Steiner.

Indicating that nearly half the world’s population is under 25, he encouraged environmental action plans to “look to young people to be part of the solution to climate change.”

Joined at the exhibition opening by young artists from Burundi, Colombia, Malta, the United Kingdom and the United States, the UNEP Director introduced the six young children as “powerful ambassadors.”

One of the young artists, Malta’s Andrew Bartolo, delivered opening remarks on the children’s fears for the environment, reflecting on the recent suffering throughout Haiti: “As a boy of only 15 it scares me that so early in my lifetime so many children have been affected by climate change.”

“My painting is a comical view of climate change,” he said, referring to his artwork that shows penguins moving from a beach to live in a refrigerator. “It shows penguins having to migrate due to difficult living conditions. Such conditions also affect humans and cause humans to have to leave their homes too.”

Also representing her message about climate change through images of penguins was United States ambassador Gabrielle Medovoy, 12.

“My painting is of a family of penguins on the move holding sandals and umbrellas. It is about how humans have to protect animals as climate change is humans’ fault and penguins cannot protect themselves,” said the young artist.

Burundi’s Guy Jayne Nindorera, 12, urged leaders to act on climate change. “It is time now and we should not wait for another moment. Especially for the kids, as it is our future and adults need to act now.”

Charlotte Sullivan, 13, of the United Kingdom, reiterated the children’s’ message on the environment. “I want everyone to act now about climate change before it is too late. If we don’t act now I am scared it will get much worse. Everyone is able to participate.”

Today’s launch is in support of a call for a definitive agreement at the climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009.

On 25 October, a selection of the paintings in the exhibition will be auctioned at the Harvard Club in New York to raise emergency funds for children affected by climate-related disasters.

Following New York, the exhibition will travel to various climate-related events and meetings around the world, culminating in Copenhagen next year.

Meanwhile, at UN Headquarters yesterday, a photographic exhibit to raise awareness about global conservation was opened. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the event with a message supporting the spirit of the UN global campaign.

“I hope all who see this exhibition will be inspired to do their part to promote a global ethic of conservation,” he said. “There is not time to lose in putting our societies on a more sustainable path of development.”

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