Environment and Climate Change

Youth engagement

Adolescent participation tackles climate change

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0398/Giacomo Pirozzi
Central African Republic, 2007: Children work in the garden of a school in Lobaye Province

While children are among the most vulnerable to climate change, they need not be considered passive or helpless victims under all circumstances. In fact, Children can be important agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation and are also likely to use environmental resources in fundamentally new ways.

The world’s population is young, with some 2.2 billion people under the age of 18.
Over 1.2 billion people are adolescents, aged between 10 and 19 years old.
About 85 per cent of the world’s youth live in developing countries.

As the manifestations of climate change and environmental degradation impact at local level, there is a need for adjustments in technology and bottom-up transformational change. Participatory development is necessary to implement community-driven adaptation (including environmental management and Disaster Risk Reduction) to institutionalize climate change resiliency. The engagement of children and young people is essential to such a community-based shift in development as they are the bearers of future responsibility. Through the Climate Ambassador Programmes, the Children’s Climate Forum and other initiatives, UNICEF works with young people globally to advance this vital agenda, empowering young people to lead community-based actions around climate adaptation, mitigation and environmental sustainability.

Climate change and environmental degradation are issues in which adolescents and youth are engaged locally, regionally and globally. In many countries, young people are taking the lead in working towards environmental sustainability through behavior change, community actions, technological innovation and the development of new green employment areas. They are taking the next step in waste management, moving from recycling to upcycling, increasing the value of a waste product by turning it into something new. Young teams lead some of the world's largest companies in smart grids, consumer energy efficiency, and renewable energy technologies and students drive university research in these fields worldwide. Young people are also leading new and sustainable approaches to urban design, contributing to a global transformation of urban planning for the most marginalized children and youth to live equitably and sustainably in cities.

UNite for Climate - Child Rights and Climate Change: Your World, Your Voice, Your Future!
by Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel

Successful responses to climate change will need to be rooted in extensive grassroots action. A substantial youth movement has already arisen around the issue. The great energy behind this movement highlights the understanding young people have of the consequences behind climate change for their future. Maladaptation for this and succeeding generations could give rise to a host of human security and livelihood risks, such as food insecurity, social dislocation and joblessness. On the other hand, if harnessed and supported, the capacities of youth and children could instead contribute to the technological and institutional transformations necessary to face the climate challenge. This could be part of a broader child and youth empowerment agenda whereby climate change serves as an imminent and tangible problem galvanizing positive development action.



Agents of Change


The Benefits of a Child-Centered Approach to Climate Change
UNICEF UK and Plan International - 2011

Youth powered solutions

Children Climate Forum UNite for Climate - 2009

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