World Environment Day
Scientific findings have left no doubt that changing climate has – and will continue to have – a significant impact on human life and natural systems.
However, while no area is immune to the impacts of climate change, evidence suggests that developing countries, which already struggle with social, economic and environmental issues, will be worst hit by changes in rainfall patterns, greater weather extremes, and an increase in flooding and droughts—such as that currently gripping the Sahel.
Children and women are the most vulnerable to the impact of a changing climate. Compared to adults, children are more susceptible to the negative effects of environmental degradation and more vulnerable to conditions such as poor air quality, contaminated water and extreme heat. Children who are excluded or discriminated against because of their economic and social background are often most affected.
The impacts are more severe for children in countries that have weak governance and poor education systems—for girls, for children living in poverty, for children from ethnic minorities and indigenous groups, and for children living with disabilities.
Nevertheless, children should not be considered passive or helpless victims. In fact, they are powerful agents of change.
Studies have found that on the whole, children can be extraordinarily resilient in the face of significant challenges. Providing children with empowering and relevant education on disasters and climate change in a child-friendly school environment can reduce their vulnerability to risk while contributing to sustainable development for their communities. Educating girls and women is one of the best ways to strengthen community adaptation to climate change.
UNICEF believes that education and climate change go hand in hand. Incorporating climate change and environmental education, including education on disaster-risk reduction, into a child-friendly education curriculum ensures the realization of children’s environmental rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.