NEW DELHI, June 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world's poorest children are at greater risk of trafficking and slavery if the United States goes ahead with its plan to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi said on Wednesday.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign pledge to ditch the landmark accord to tackle global warming. Trump chose to walk away from nearly every other nation in the world on one of the most pressing challenges of the century.
But Satyarthi said his action would hit the poorest hardest.
"I have been advocating for years on the very direct effect of climate change and global warming on the trafficking, migration and slavery of children," Satyarthi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"I would appeal to Mr Trump to reconsider his decision, but if he doesn't, then definitely it is going to create more harm for children, as they are often the biggest victims of disasters."
A prominent child rights activist, Satyarthi said disasters were already pushing poor rural families so deeply into poverty that many were exploited by traffickers, who promise good jobs and decent pay for their children, only to enslave them.
In 2014, Satyarthi was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai for his work on curbing child labour and advocating for their right to education.
Trump drew worldwide condemnation with his decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreement to cut emissions, saying it undermined the U.S. economy and cost Americans their jobs.
Scientists say climate change will mean more intense weather events, which will not only hit agricultural output and food security, but also lead to water shortages and trigger outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue.
They say climate change will severely impact countries such as India, where many of its 1.3 billion people live in areas vulnerable to hazards such as floods, droughts and cyclones.
Post-disaster human trafficking is already common in regions such as South Asia where the breakdown of institutions in devastated areas creates difficulties in securing food and humanitarian supplies, leaving women and children vulnerable.
Satyarthi's charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) is credited with rescuing more than 80,000 enslaved children. (Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)