Climate change and environment
A liveable planet for every child.
Virtually every child on the planet is already affected by climate change. Natural disasters, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss can devastate agriculture, cutting children off from nutritious foods and safe water. They can lead to dangerous environments and disease outbreaks, and destroy the safe shelter, quality health care and education systems children need to survive and thrive.
As humanitarian action falls short of addressing the climate crisis, children and young people are bearing the brunt. They make up half of the world’s population, but are least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and other hazardous practices harming our environment.
The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. It robs children of their ability to grow healthy and happy, and can ultimately cause illness, disease and even death. Efforts to sustain a liveable planet must not only account for the unique needs and vulnerabilities of young people; they must also include them in the solutions. Children and young people have critical skills, experiences and ideas for safer, more sustainable societies. They are not simply inheritors of our inaction — they are living the consequences today.
Our focus areas
Social programmes for children need to adapt to a changing climate. We advocate for child-centred climate adaptation, resilience-building and child-sensitive climate policies, while mapping out children’s climate risk and supporting young climate champions.
Disaster risk reduction and recovery
Even before disaster strikes, children need measures that reduce their risks of harm and support a resilient recovery. We work on vulnerability mapping, multi-hazard early warning systems, comprehensive disaster-management strategies and post-disaster needs. We also help governments build their capacity to strengthen social services and infrastructure to reduce the impact of disaster.
Climate change and environmental degradation can be addressed for and with young people, through programmes for survival, health and well-being. We support local solutions that value biodiversity as well as nature-based solutions. And we act to protect children’s health from toxic metals, chemicals, hazardous waste, air pollution and other harmful biproducts of our societies.
A brighter life for every child begins with sustainable energy. We partner with the public and private sectors to advance clean, renewable and sustainable energy solutions. That includes areas like the vaccine cold chain, and programmes like solar water pumping. We help to electrify schools and health centres, and to enable community-level energy access for education and social protection programmes. We also engage in green skills training, adolescent and youth mobilization, cross-sectoral advocacy and policymaking.
What we do
At UNICEF, our climate, disaster risk reduction, environment and energy activities aim to:
- Advocate with governments and business partners to put children and young people first in their sustainability plans, budgets and actions towards a green transition.
- Strengthen the resilience and continuity of social services to climate and environmental impacts, including humanitarian action in response to disasters.
- Support and empower children and young people to adapt and create a better world.
- Become sustainable within our own global programming, operations and supply chain.
Read our 2022-2030 strategy to see how UNICEF plans to create a liveable planet for every child by 2030.
The investments we can make for children now will ensure that they survive, grow and thrive in the face of climate and environmental shocks. UNICEF advocates for these investments, while supporting young people with the education and skills they need to help make the world a greener place.
Help us protect, prepare and prioritize every child for a safe, sustainable, and water-secure future.
To ensure child-critical services are more inclusive, resilient to and prepared for disasters and climate change impacts, UNICEF works across the following sectors:
- Education, including climate resilience
- Health, including healthy environments;
- Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), including climate-resilient WASH initiatives;
- Child protection; and
- Social policy, including shock responsive social protection.
Engagement with young people
UNICEF works to elevate and empower children and young people to meaningfully participate in the decisions and actions that affect them. We work with them to develop child- and youth-friendly tools for climate action and give voice to young climate activists, innovators and entrepreneurs.
Protecting children from the effects of climate change and empowering them as agents of change require transformational solutions. UNICEF’s approach to climate innovation is aimed at finding such solutions to the most stubborn climate crisis challenges.
UNICEF is at the forefront of research, tools and analysis that governments rely on to plan and develop policy, and allocate investments towards the most vulnerable children. Among other pieces of evidence, we have developed:
The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI)
The first comprehensive view of children’s exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
Climate crisis is a child rights crisis
A report for advocacy on bold and urgent climate action.
Child-sensitive climate policies
A study exploring the extent countries’ Paris Agreement climate commitments are inclusive, rights-based for children and young people, and ensure the services they depend on are climate- and disaster-resilient.
The Heat is On!
Key recommendations and a self-assessment tool to make education systems in South Asia, and globally, more resilient in the face of increasing climate change risks.
Explore more evidence and publications.
The impacts of climate disasters affect different children differently, based on their gender, age, disability, location or migration status. UNICEF works to include all children in climate and DRR decision-making so to they can be better prepared, protected, and resilient.