FACT SHEET: COP26 – Children and Climate Change – UNICEF | Directory Mayhem

GLASGOW, 1 November 2021 – UNICEF will be at COP26 to ensure that the climate crisis is recognized as a crisis for children and their rights, to promote climate risk reduction approaches for the most vulnerable, and to encourage children and youth participation at COP26 as part of the effort to support the participation of children and young people in climate-related decision-making processes.

“COP26 has to be the COP for children,” she said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing this generation, with 1 billion children at extremely high risk. But while the outlook is bleak, world leaders at COP26 have a significant, timely opportunity to turn around the terrible path we are on. They can do this by committing to building the resilience of services children depend on and by cutting emissions faster and deeper. The future of billions of children depends on it.”

key messages:

The climate crisis is a child rights crisis.

  • Climate change poses a major threat to the health, nutrition, education, development, survival and future viability of children and adolescents. Compared to adults, children require more food and water per unit of body weight and are less able to withstand extreme weather events to survive and are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature fluctuations and diseases, among other things.
  • Crucially, current and future generations of children must navigate an uncertain future in which the current growth model, which combines economic development with environmental exploitation, is no longer sustainable.

Children in communities that have contributed the least to global emissions will feel the greatest impacts of climate change. Building the resilience of social services that these children will depend on is critical to reducing the risks they will face. Some important facts about children and climate:

  • A UNICEF report from August The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI)found that almost every child on earth is exposed to at least one climate and environmental hazard, such as heat waves, hurricanes, air pollution, flooding and water shortages.
  • About 1 billion children – almost half the world’s children – live in 33 countries classified as “extremely high risk” by the index. These children are exposed to a deadly combination of multiple climate and environmental shocks while also being exposed to high vulnerability due to inadequate basic services such as water and sanitation, health care and education.
  • An estimated 850 million children — more than a third of all children — live in areas where at least four climate and environmental shocks overlap, and as many as 330 million children live in areas hit by a staggering five major climate shocks.
  • Children from countries that contribute the least to climate change suffer the most from the consequences. The 33 countries with extremely high risk together cause 9 percent of the CO2 emissions. The 10 countries with the highest risk together cause only 0.5 percent of global emissions.
  • Improving the resilience of critical services that children depend on is often the best investment in reducing the risks they face.
    • Access to resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services reduces risks for 415 million children.
    • Climate-smart health services reduce risks for 460 million children.
    • Resilient schools and education systems reduce risks for 275 million children.
    • And climate-friendly social safety nets reduce the risks for 310 million children.

Acting at COP26 is imperative. UNICEF urges governments to do so:

  • increase Investing in climate adaptation and resilience.
    • UNICEF urges developed countries to surpass their 2009 pledge to mobilize $100 billion annually for climate finance amid evidence that these sums are insufficient to address the magnitude of climate impacts. UNICEF calls for more emphasis on funding to build climate resilience and adaptability.
    • Climate change efforts will take decades to reverse the effects of climate change, and it will be too late for today’s children. Unless we invest heavily in the adaptation and resilience of social services for the 4.2 billion children who will be born in the next 30 years, those children will face increasing risks to their survival and well-being.
    • Critical services need to be adapted, such as water, sanitation and hygiene systems, health and education services.
    • It is imperative that countries at COP26 commit to increasing their investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key child services, prioritizing the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. The decisions made at COP26 will shape the lives of every child in every nation of the world now and in the future.
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    • UNICEF is urging countries to cut their emissions by at least 45 percent (compared to 2010 levels) by 2030 to limit warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • Governments have strayed miserably from meeting this target amid the UNFCCC warning that existing climate change targets could lead to a temperature rise of around 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Scientists say that for every fraction of a degree of warming, more extreme heat waves, floods and droughts are to be expected.
    • The number of children at “extremely high risk” from the effects of climate change, according to UNICEF estimates, is likely to increase as climate change impacts accelerate.
  • Include young people in all climate negotiations and decisions.
    • UNICEF supports young people’s calls for governments to end the consistent omission of young people, particularly those from the hardest hit places.
    • Young people continue to demand comprehensive and bold climate action from decision-makers. So far, the required measures have not been implemented to the required extent.
    • Children and young people are underrepresented in politics and political discussions, despite being the main stakeholders for their outcomes. They are therefore only able to influence decisions that are decisive for their future to a limited extent.
    • Children’s rights and voices must be reflected and included in the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement at national, regional and international levels. COP26 offers a crucial opportunity to formalize this. In 2022 it will be 30 years since the UNFCCC Convention was drafted, and yet in that time there has never been a decision that focused on children and young people on climate change made within the framework of the UNFCCC.
    • Every government must provide climate education to children and young people so that they can meaningfully contribute to and participate in climate policies and actions.

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Notes for editors

Speaker in Glasgow:

  • Gautam Narasimhan, 1st-6th cent. November (UNICEF Global Lead on Climate, Energy & Environment
  • Silvia Gaya, 1.-8. November (UNICEF Senior Advisor on Water, Sanitation & Hygiene)
  • Valentina Otmacic, 9.-12. November (UNICEF Deputy Director for Advocacy)

We also work with more than 20 youth climate defenders/activists also from countries most affected by climate change. Many are attending COP26, while others are available for interviews from their communities about the climate crisis there. Interviews can be conducted in English and Spanish.

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