Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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“We’re Here, the Next Generation”: Exploring Possibilities for Children’s Citizenship in Local Climate Policy in Ōtautahi Christchurch

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posted on 2024-02-29, 21:36 authored by Asha Ryder

Climate change carries profound implications for intergenerational justice for individuals and communities. Children and young people are one such group who will bear the brunt of deferred, inadequate or maladaptive decision-making, yet their right to participate is routinely neglected. Climate Change Education (CCE) plays an important role in supporting students with key understandings, skills and dispositions for climate action. However, despite the burgeoning literature on the need for cohesive, socially transformative, action-oriented CCE, the practice is dominated by problem-focussed, individualistic approaches to teaching and learning. In addition, opportunities for children’s engagement in local climate policy presents a promising avenue for enhancing intergenerational justice through the provision of children’s de jure participation rights. However, typical approaches to children’s local democratic participation are associated with tokenism, and presently there are few models to guide intergenerational engagement in the climate space. This study brings together the threads of climate change education and local democracy by examining a case study of children’s policy participation in Ōtautahi Christchurch, which was supported by the learning programme Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow. The aim of this study is to analyse how CCE shaped the experiences of students in their engagement with the Christchurch City Council’s Coastal Adaptation Framework. Applying a critical feminist theoretical approach, qualitative methods were employed with children and adults to explore how education empowered children’s citizenship capabilities, and how citizenship was exercised through intergenerational policy engagement. Data from semi-structured interviews and a focus group were analysed thematically to identify emergent themes. The findings indicate that holistic climate change education can play an important role in children’s citizenship participation, and enable them to make valuable contributions as significant stakeholders to local climate policy. Genuine inclusion of student feedback into the Coastal Adaptation Framework contributed to a sense of empowerment amongst student participants and strengthened the resulting policy. Factors that appeared to support these outcomes included the involvement of adult advocates, and adjustments made to Council’s consultative processes. The study demonstrates how effective Climate Change Education can support children’s agency and efficacy as active climate citizens in local democratic spaces.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

190203 Environmental education and awareness; 160302 Pedagogy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Thomas, Amanda; Wood, Bronwyn