New UNICEF report: Children will bear the brunt of climate change
More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence 160 million live in high drought severity areas
TORONTO/NEW YORK/GENEVA, November 24, 2015 – More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence and 160 million in high drought severity zones, leaving them highly exposed to the impacts of climate change, UNICEF said in a report released ahead of the 21st United Nations climate change conference, known as COP21.
“The Paris conference can be a game changer for the world’s most vulnerable children and Canada has a role to play in securing an ambitious outcome that will protect children and future generations from climate change—both at home and around the world,” said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO, who will be attending the conference. “We’re encouraged that Prime Minister Trudeau, along with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, will be leading a delegation of provincial premiers to this conference, and we hope that children are not forgotten in the discussions.”
UNICEF’s report, Unless we act now: The impact of climate change on children, analyzes how children the world over are uniquely at risk due to climate change and zeroes in on the heightened survival risks for the most vulnerable.
“Children, particularly the poorest, are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, a fundamental threat to their most basic rights, including access to food, water, education and survival. It also increases their risk of being victims of exploitation and violence,” said Morley. “We know how critical development is during childhood, so physical and psychological trauma caused by climate-change related impacts—like malaria, diarrhea, displacement and conflicts—have a more severe and lasting effect on children than on adults.”
Climate change and children: by the numbers
- Of the 530 million children in the flood-prone zones, some 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty – on less than $3.10 a day.
- Of those living in high drought severity areas, 50 million are in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty.
“The sheer numbers underline the urgency of acting now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Today’s children are the least responsible for climate change, but they, and their children, are the ones who will live with its consequences. And, as is so often the case, disadvantaged communities face the gravest threat.”
Severe weather events put children’s lives at risk
Climate change means more droughts, floods, heatwaves and other severe weather conditions. These events can cause death and devastation, and can also contribute to the increased spread of major killers of children, such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. This can create a vicious circle: A child deprived of adequate water and sanitation before a crisis will be more affected by a flood, drought, or severe storm, less likely to recover quickly, and at even greater risk when faced with a subsequent crisis.
The vast majority of the children living in areas at extremely high risk of floods are in Asia, and the majority of those in areas at risk of drought are in Africa.
COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris
World leaders gathering in Paris for COP21 – held from November 30 to December 11 – will seek to reach agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which most experts say is critical to limiting potentially catastrophic rises in temperature.
“We know what has to be done to prevent the devastation climate change can inflict. Failing to act would be unconscionable,” said Lake. “We owe it to our children – and to the planet – to make the right decisions at COP21.”
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