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Report on climate change and child rights released by UNICEF

FLORENCE, 30 July 2014 - As evidence of the increase in greenhouse gasses mounts, children – the most vulnerable and largest population affected by climate change – continue to be ignored in high level climate negotiations. In response, top climate change thinkers have joined forces to analyze a range of dilemmas and challenges for children thrown up by the unabated warming of the world.

The Challenges of Climate Change: Children on the front line, a new publication produced by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, seeks to broaden and deepen understanding of child rights dimensions in the climate change discourse.

“As the effects of climate change become more visible and extreme, they are likely to affect adversely the lives of children and adolescents all over the world,” said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF in the report’s Foreword. “Over 99 per cent of deaths already attributable to climate-related changes occur in developing countries – and children make up over 80 per cent of those deaths.”

Comprised of articles from 40 accomplished experts – scientists, development practitioners and specialists in health, nutrition and child rights – the report details both the accelerating global threats to children, as well as the urgent need to incorporate a comprehensive child rights approach, including directly involving children, in adaptation and mitigation efforts.

“Children and young people today constitute the generation that will be required to deal with the future impacts of climate change and that will have to deliver the very deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that will be essential in the coming decades. Yet they are a constituency that has traditionally been ignored when it comes to high-level climate negotiations,” says Marie Claude Martin, Director of the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. “This book is an attempt to redress the balance.”

Contributors detail how climate–related deaths of children in developing countries are brought on by changing patterns of major disease vectors and natural disasters, by food insecurity and lack of access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. They estimate that over the next decade, in South Asia and Africa alone, 175 million children will be hit by climate-related disasters which could account for an additional 250,000 child deaths each year. 

The report highlights the imperative for informed engagement of children and youth, not only because of the child’s right to participate, but because young people may be uniquely able to sustain focus of their communities and nations on the issue better than adults who have repeatedly postponed politically challenging policy realities.

Other child rights implications of climate change include the moral challenge posed by the concept of inter-generational justice; asking which risks people who are currently living are allowed to impose on future generations.

Anthony Lake: “The challenge of climate change is huge; it requires an urgent response from all generations – and the children who will inherit the earth are the last people who should be excluded.”

The report also points to significant opportunities from greater investment in children, such as creating economies of scale: reducing future costs that would arise if investments were not made, as well as the potential gains from effective child education programmes which could be among the most important, and least valued, of all climate change investments.

The report concludes by looking ahead to 2015; a year of opportunity in which the world embarks on an ambitious agenda to end poverty, halt climate change and promote the rights of the child.



UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit www.unicef.org
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For more information, please contact:

Dale Rutstein, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence, Tel: +39 055 20 33 354, Cell: +39 335 758 2585, drutstein@unicef.org  

Patrizia Faustini, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence, Tel: +39 055 20 33 253, pfaustini@unicef.org

Ricardo Pires, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence, Tel: +39 055 20 33 226, rpires@unicef.org





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