January 25, 2022 4:20 pm

The future of billions of children depends on COP26

“The COP26 must be the COP for children,” the executive director of UNICEF before the opening of the United Nations Climate Conference that will be held in the Scottish city of Glasgow until next November 12.

Henrietta Fore’s message serves as a reminder that climate change represents a generational threat to 1 billion children who are at extremely high risk of this phenomenon.

“However, although the outlook is dire, world leaders at COP26 have an important and urgent opportunity to redirect the terrible path we are on. They can do it committing to increasing the capacity of the services children depend on, and reducing emissions more quickly and significantly. The future of billions of children depends on it, “he said.

Juan Sierra

Long queues to access the venue for the climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow (Scotland).

UNICEF key messages to the Conference

  • 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 relative to their body weight, are less able to survive extreme weather events, and are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes, and disease, among other factors
  • Current and future generations of children will have to navigate an uncertain future in which the current growth model that links economic development to environmental exploitation is no longer viable

Some important facts about children and the weather

  • A UNICEF report released in August found that nearly all of the world’s children are exposed to at least one climate and environmental hazard, such as heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, floods and lack of water
  • Approximately 1 billion children – almost half of the world’s children – live in 33 countries classified as “extremely high (climate) risk”. These minors are exposed to multiple climatic and environmental disturbances together with high vulnerability due to insufficient essential services, such as water and sanitation, health care and education.
  • It is calculated that 850 million children live in areas where at least four climatic and environmental disturbances are combined, and some 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 high climate risk collectively produce 9% of CO2 emissions, while in the 10 countries with the highest environmental exposure, only 0.5% of global emissions emanate
  • The best investment to reduce the risks children face is to improve the resilience of the key services on which they depend
  • Access to adaptable water, sanitation and hygiene services reduces risks for 415 million children.
  • Climate-friendly 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.
Two children in Bolivia wash their hands at a UNICEF-supported station.


Two children in Bolivia wash their hands at a UNICEF-supported station.

UNICEF calls on governments to

Increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience.

  • UNICEF urges developed countries to exceed their 2009 commitment to provide $ 100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries, given the evidence that these sums are insufficient to address the magnitude of climate impacts.
  • If a strong investment is not made in the adaptation and resilience of social services for the 4.2 billion children who will be born in the next 3 years, these minors
  • Critical services, such as water, sanitation and hygiene systems, and health and education services need to be adapted.
  • It is imperative that during COP26 countries commit to increasing investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children, prioritizing the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. The decisions made at the event will mark the lives of all children of all nations on the planet, now and in the future.
A power plant in Mauritius generates greenhouse gas emissions.

UNDP Mauritius/Stéphane Bellero

A power plant in Mauritius generates greenhouse gas emissions.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • UNICEF urges countries to reduce their emissions by 2030 by at least 45% compared to 2010 levels, so that warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Governments are regrettably far from achieving this goal. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, if current climate mitigation objectives are followed, these will lead to an increase in temperature of about 2.7ºC by the end of the century. For every tenth of warming, scientists say we will have more extreme heat waves, floods and droughts.
  • The number of children who will be at “extremely high risk” for the effects of climate change is likely to increase as the effects of climate change accelerate.

Include youth in all climate negotiations and decisions.

  • UNICEF supports the call of young people for governments to end their constant omission of this population group, especially those who live in the most affected places.
  • Young people continue to demand bold and comprehensive climate action from decision makers. The action they demand has so far not materialized at the necessary levels.
  • Children and young people are underrepresented in decision-making and political debates, despite being the main stakeholder in their results. Therefore, they are limited in their ability to influence decisions that are critical to their future.
  • The implementation of the Paris Agreement at the national, regional and international levels must reflect and include the rights and views of children. COP26 represents a critical opportunity to formalize this issue. 2022 will mark the 30th anniversary of the drafting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and during that long period of time, a climate decision focused on children and young people has never been made under the agreement.
  • All governments must provide climate education to children and youth so that they can contribute and participate meaningfully in climate policy and action.


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