UNICEF Executive Director Catherine M. Russell on the AR6 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

UNICEF’s recently released Child Climate Risk Index – the first comprehensive analysis of climate and environmental risks from a child’s perspective – shows that one billion children live in very high-risk countries where they are exposed to the most severe hazards, shocks and stressors. The impact on these children, their families and their future – and therefore their societies – is enormous.

TBS Report

01 March 2022, 12:30

Last modification: March 01, 2022, 12:49 p.m.

Today, 1 billion of the world’s most vulnerable children are at extreme risk. If the world does not act, tomorrow it will be only children. It is high time to put children at the center of climate action. Photo: courtesy

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Today, 1 billion of the world’s most vulnerable children are at extreme risk. If the world does not act, tomorrow it will be only children. It is high time to put children at the center of climate action. Photo: courtesy

Today’s landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) removes any lingering doubt that the climate crisis is not a future threat. It is here, it is accelerating, and it will continue to affect the world in increasingly devastating ways.

Already, the climate crisis has put nearly every child, on every continent, at heightened risk of more frequent, intense and destructive climate hazards, from heat waves and droughts to cyclones and floods, from air pollution air to vector-borne diseases.

But for some children, the climate crisis is more than an increased risk. It is a potentially deadly reality.

According to a press release, UNICEF’s recently released Child Climate Risk Index – the first comprehensive analysis of climate and environmental risks from a child’s perspective – shows that one billion children live in countries at very high risk where they are exposed to the most severe hazards, shocks and stressors. The impact on these children, their families and their future – and therefore their societies – is enormous.

Today, 1 billion of the world’s most vulnerable children are at risk. Tomorrow, if the world does not act, it will be all children.

The evidence is irrefutable: the climate crisis is a children’s crisis. And yet, children are systematically neglected in planning responses to the climate crisis. Investing in the needs of the children most affected by climate change is not a priority. In many cases, it’s not even on the agenda.

The world cannot continue to ignore children as it grapples with the existential threat of climate change and environmental degradation. It’s time to put our children at the center of climate action.

First and always, governments must achieve ambitious emissions reductions. This remains the only long-term solution, because climate adaptation has limits. But we must act – now – to help the most vulnerable children, living in countries with the lowest per capita emissions, adapt to the impacts of climate change, so they can survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Preparing countries and communities through climate-resilient development with a particular focus on adaptation is the most effective way to protect the lives of vulnerable children and the livelihoods of families. It is proven to reduce climate risk for children. It builds resilience to expected future climate shocks. It offers real economic advantages.

Yet many countries lack adaptation plans altogether or have plans that do not protect or address their specific and urgent needs. This means that most children are still unprotected and unprepared for the growing impact of climate change.

UNICEF calls on every country to commit to ensuring that child-centred adaptation is a centerpiece of all climate plans as an issue of the highest priority.

To be effective, child-centred adaptation plans and resilience measures must be multi-sectoral, covering the critical sectors that support child survival and well-being: water and sanitation; health, nutrition and education; social policy and child protection. They must also focus their resources and attention on the most marginalized and vulnerable children in the poorest communities. Equally important, they must be developed and implemented with the engagement and participation of young people – ensuring that their voices are heard and their needs considered in decisions. Finally, they must be funded and staffed appropriately and urgently.

Young people have already waited too long for leaders to take the deep and drastic action needed to limit the climate crisis. Don’t keep them waiting for us to take the smart, strategic steps that will help them survive.

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