Climate change

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1615/Kate Holt
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Children bearing jerrycans collect water from Lake Kivu, in the city of Goma.

Over the past 4 years, the UNICEF Climate Ambassador Programme has facilitated climate change-related initiatives in every region. The programme equips children and adolescents with advocacy, communication, adaptation and mitigation skills. Children are empowered to conduct local climate actions and engage in international and national debates.

Initiating youth-led local-level is central to the Climate Ambassador Programme. The Programme uses climate change as an overarching theme around which to engage children and young people in advocating and realizing their rights. From incentivizing community clean-ups through the Freshwater Cup football competition in Belize to the work of the empowering school children to start initiatives around waste, water, or community gardens in South Africa, UNICEF has shown the value of engaging young people in sustainable climate actions.

Programme areas include:

UNICEF’s focus on youth-led community based climate action began with the Children’s Climate Forum, at which 144 adolescents from 44 countries gathered to learn skills from small-scale irrigation to building local solar systems that they could transfer to their communities at home.

Most recently, UNICEF created child- and youth-led community active consultations, through which Country Offices work with young people to identify and discuss the key elements of the future they – as future leaders and current critical stakeholders – want for their communities and how they plan to get there. UNICEF’s Adolescent Development & Participation unit developed a toolkit for the Future We Want consultations.

A substantial youth movement has already arisen around climate change. The great energy driving this movement highlights young people’s understanding of global issues and their role in solving them. Adolescents organizing around climate change could be part of a broader child and youth empowerment agenda of positive development action.



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Innocenti Research Centre

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From the field