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Kenyan children show their views during a procession on climate change in their country

(Reuters)

As world leaders gear up for key climate talks in Copenhagen, those who are will bear the consequences of global warming - children - are also discussing the issue.

Four Swiss are participating in the international Children's Climate Forum organised by Unicef, which starts on Saturday. The aim is to draw up recommendations to be presented to the adults' conference.

The week-long forum, which also takes place in Copenhagen, proceeds the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15), which starts on December 7. COP15 will attempt to hammer out a post-Kyoto agreement on reducing greenhouse gases.

"The children of today are going to be the adults of tomorrow," 17-year-old Swiss Robin Maedel said ahead of the forum. "And because of that, we have a right to play a role in determining the outcome of our future, influencing the legacy that today's politicians are going to hand over to us one day."

"The ideas of children are also naturally more liberal, free thinking and open minded than that of adults. Without politics or economics really influencing our opinions we can see these issues from different perspectives," he told swissinfo.ch via email.

Irina Studhalter, another of the four environmentally-conscious teens chose to represent Switzerland, agrees. "For me it's really clear that we young people deserve more attention than we presently get, and climate issues are of course part of this," the 16-year-old said.

Hard hit countries

In all, 160 teenagers from more than 40 countries will be taking part in the forum. Particularly valuable will be the participation of youngsters from developing countries, expected to suffer most from the effects of global warming.

Unicef estimates that around 175 million children live in at-risk countries or regions.

"Children are affected by droughts, flooding, but there are also children who have to walk for around three to four hours to get to the next water source, instead of being at school," Unicef Switzerland's Alexandra Rosetti told swissinfo.ch.

By 2020, global warming is expected to expose an estimated 75 million people in Africa to increased water stress.

Malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition, the main childhood killers in poor countries, are highly sensitive to climate conditions, explained Rosetti. An increased incidence of natural disasters – floods, droughts – will also strike the most vulnerable.

The children's forum offers an opportunity for the youngsters from around the world to share ideas and discuss what climate change is like in their own countries.

Lessons to adults

The final aim is to draw up a resolution of recommendations. It will be presented to the president of the COP15 at the forum's closing session. A small group of children's delegates will also participate in the first week of the climate change conference.

Studhalter and Maedel hope that the resolution will be taken seriously by the adults and that politicians will see that children really care about global warming – and their futures.

Robin says energy is one of the most important issues. He believes in increasing the use of renewable energy, but also wants to economic world to pay more attention to the environment and be less wasteful of resources.

He says that although progress has been made and people are more environmentally aware, using new technologies for energy and adapting a more sustainable lifestyle is still necessary.

For Irina, it is also up to the state to pass laws protecting the environment.

Working together is key, she believes, as this will lead to more efficient solutions. "Because the longer we wait, the more serious the consequences and the more difficult and costly it will be to rectify the situation."

Isobel Leybold-Johnson, swissinfo.ch

Children's Climate Forum

The Children's Climate Forum takes place from November 28 until December 4 in Copenhagen and is organised by Unicef and the City of Copenhagen.

Four young Swiss are taking part: Maria Vittoria Foglia, Robin Maedel, Hannes Spichiger, Irina Studhalter. After the forum, they will be acting as Unicef young ambassadors for the environment.

People under 25 years old currently make up 46% of the world's population, says Unicef.

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UN climate change conference

The first UN climate conference - the Earth Summit - was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It produced the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

A follow-up conference in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, with binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. The 178-nation accord requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels by 2010.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen from December 7-18, 2009 is expected to lead to a post-Kyoto climate agreement. Negotiations will focus on reducing human causes of climate change and adaptation, as well as the needs of developing countries.

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