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President of the Republic on Children’s Day in the President’s Rose Garden

01.06.2019

Dear children and all those working with and for children!

Happy Children’s Day to you all and welcome to Kadriorg, to this year’s presentation of the acknowledgment awards.

I just met with the champions of children to be recognised this year; you will hear about their inspiring deeds very soon. Behind their acts are stories that are mostly sad and horrible but nevertheless demonstrate solutions and hope that in the future, the number of such stories will diminish. This is what the protection of children is all about.

However, all such efforts may be in vain if we’re unable to secure for our children and grandchildren a world in which they can focus on fulfilling their dreams instead of patching up the consequences of our mistakes. For all our history, we have pursued efforts to offer our children a better life than ours. And yet in today’s world, 2.2 billion children will grow up knowing that they will have to struggle seriously with the consequences of the climate change they have inherited.

Wholesome food, good health, school education and a safe living environment – everything important for a child is being threatened by climate change. A lack of water, heat waves, a scarcity of food resulting from drought or flood. This is a reality for many children and a direct future threat for millions.

Children are most vulnerable to the consequences of climate changes. Our very own children who worry, thinking about the planet they are about to leave to their own children. Us, the grown-ups, must help you. No matter how inconvenient this may be. We must.

There’s no doubt that climate and environment in general are among the most important issues concerning the future and existence of mankind. Children have a justified expectation to be heard when issues concerning our future are discussed. UNICEF, referring to problems resulting from climate change, also emphasises the need to protect the rights of children and their justified right to be involved.

The climate strikes that have become more and more widespread in recent months represent the initiative of children themselves, their chosen method to be heard. Thousands of children have come to the streets to communicate their message. Children are making use of their justified right to be involved.

The inconvenient truth they express is intolerable for some social groups. It’s easier to deny than to take responsibility. Some have even attempted to ridicule climate strikes. However, let’s look at the situation as it is – what else can a child do but stand there, demanding, and look into the eyes of his or her parent. We’ve all seen such a look as a parent – I’m suffering, I’m sad, I’m worried – why don’t you do anything about it? We shouldn’t respond to this look with suggestions to get over it, to forget about it or to get on with life, thus diminishing the valid concerns of children.

This is a standard educational paradigm – the problem of a child must not be diminished. It’s valid in both everyday life situations and in the sphere of climatic issues.

We have to respond to the child’s problem. We have to agree that the problem is justified. We must suggest solutions. If there are no easy solutions, we need to discuss possible mitigating measures with our children – as there are quite a few. Starting from changing personal consumption patterns and ending with a long-term plan that would show them – by the time you start attending university, our economy could be free of carbon emissions, perhaps excluding air and sea transport. And it will be up to you to remove the last remnants of economies that emit greenhouse gases. This is an appropriate response to the worries of children. If we fail to do this, the demanding and troubled eyes will no longer look at us hoping for a solution. And the result will be fear and disappointment.

When a new generation is struck down by hopelessness and vulnerability, we have lost something very valuable for our future. The curiosity of children along with their desire to ask questions and seek answers must not disappear. We need to maintain and strengthen it.

However, children are not completely unarmed where it comes to climate issues. They are backed up by the best possible powers of science, and knowledge represents mankind’s best weapon. More than 12,000 scientists have already signed a petition supporting the children on climate strike.

Our task as parents, teachers and friends is to contribute to this support. As we encourage children to think, we may hope that future generations of decision makers will be smarter than us and equipped with better knowledge. Then they will be suitably armed to cope with environmental problems. And we must also do everything possible ourselves, for the sake of our children, to make the most of our current technological level.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the climate strikers should inspire all of us to make a bigger effort. There is a hope that, inspired by our children, we may end up achieving something big. You see, in the past children were only heard after they had graduated from schools, were grown up and had experience under the supervision of the older generation. Today, the biggest fight for the future of our planet is being led by children.

Thank you, children, for being our good, sweet, demanding, friendly and supporting companions every day!