FACT SHEET: COP26 – Children and climate change


GLASGOW, November 1, 2021 – UNICEF will be present at COP26 to ensure that the climate crisis is recognized as a crisis for children and their rights, to promote approaches to reduce climate risks for the most vulnerable and to support children’s participation and youth at COP26 as part of efforts to support the participation of children and youth in climate-related decision-making.

“COP26 must be the children’s COP,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing this generation, with 1 billion children at extremely high risk. Yet while the outlook is bleak, world leaders at COP26 have an important and urgent opportunity to reorient the terrible path we are on. They can do this by committing to building the resilience of the services children depend on and reducing emissions faster and deeper. The future of billions of children depends on it.

Key messages:

The climate crisis is a crisis of children’s rights.

  • Climate change poses a major threat to the health, nutrition, education, development, survival and future potential of children and young people. Compared to adults, children need more food and water per unit of body weight, are less able to survive extreme weather events, and are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes and disease, among other factors.
  • Critically, current and future generations of children will have to navigate an uncertain future where the current model of growth that links economic development with environmental exploitation is no longer sustainable.

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

  • A UNICEF report from August, The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), found that almost all children on earth are exposed to at least one climatic and environmental hazard, such as heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, floods and water scarcity.
  • About 1 billion children – almost half of the world’s children – live in 33 countries classified in the index as “at extremely high risk”. These children face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climatic and environmental shocks with great vulnerability due to inadequate essential 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 climatic and environmental shocks overlap, and up to 330 million children live in areas affected by five. major climatic shocks.
  • Children in countries that contribute the least to climate change suffer the greatest consequences. The 33 countries at very high risk collectively emit 9% of CO2 emissions. The 10 countries most at risk collectively emit only 0.5% of global emissions.
  • Improving the resilience of key services on which children depend is often the best investment to reduce 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 risks for 310 million children.

Action at COP26 is imperative. UNICEF calls on governments to:

  • To augment investment in adaptation and resilience to climate change.
    • UNICEF urges developed countries to exceed their 2009 pledge to mobilize $ 100 billion per year in climate finance in light of evidence that these sums are insufficient to address the scale of climate impacts. UNICEF urges a greater focus on financing to build climate resilience and adaptive capacity.
    • Mitigation efforts will take decades to reverse the impacts of climate change, and for today’s children, it will be too late. Unless massive investments are made in the adaptation and resilience of social services for the 4.2 billion children born over the next 30 years, these children will face increasing risks to their survival and survival. well-being.
    • Essential services must be adapted, such as water supply, sanitation and hygiene systems, health and education services.
    • It is imperative that, at COP26, countries commit to investing more in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children, prioritizing the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. The decisions made at COP26 will shape the lives of every child in every nation on earth, now and into the future.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    • UNICEF urges countries to reduce their emissions by at least 45% (from 2010 levels) by 2030 to keep warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • Governments are woefully behind schedule to meet this target, with the UNFCCC warning that existing climate change mitigation targets could result in a temperature rise of about 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. For every fraction of a degree of warming, scientists say more extreme heat waves, floods and droughts can be expected.
    • The number of children that UNICEF considers to be “at extremely high risk” from the impacts of climate change is likely to increase as the impacts of climate change accelerate.
  • Include young people in all climate negotiations and decisions.
    • UNICEF supports young people’s calls to governments to end the constant omission of young people, especially those in the most affected places.
    • Young people continue to demand bold and comprehensive climate action from decision-makers. So far, the requested action has not materialized at the required levels.
    • Children and young people are under-represented in policy and policy discussions although they are the main stakeholders in their outcomes. They are therefore limited in their ability to influence decisions that are crucial for their future.
    • The rights and voices of children must be reflected and included in the implementation of the Paris Agreement at the national, regional and international levels. COP26 offers a crucial opportunity to formalize this. 2022 will mark 30 years since the drafting of the UNFCCC Convention and yet at that time there has never been a decision focused on children and young people in climate action taken under the UNFCCC.
    • Every government must provide climate education to children and young people so that they can meaningfully contribute and participate in climate policy and action.

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Notes to Editors

Spokesperson in Glasgow:

  • Gautam Narasimhan, November 1-6 (UNICEF Global Officer on Climate, Energy and Environment
  • Silvia Gaya, November 1-8 (UNICEF Senior Advisor for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene)
  • Valentina Otmacic, November 9-12 (Deputy Director of Advocacy, UNICEF)

We also work with over 20 young climate advocates / activists including countries most affected by climate change. Many are attending COP26, while others are available for interviews with their communities on the climate crisis there. Interviews can be conducted in English and Spanish.

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