The Climate Crisis is a Child Rights Crisis

One billion children at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of the climate crisis - UNICEF

A new UNICEF report –The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis  finds approximately 1 billion children – nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children – live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”.

Countries are ranked based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as heatwaves and floods, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks, based on their access to essential services such as health and education.


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Malaysia is ranked 61 in the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI). Meaning we’re amongst the top 100 countries where children are most at risk of climate shocks. Children in the Central African Republic are at most “extreme risk”. Their country is ranked 1 in the CCRI ladder. Meanwhile, children in Iceland are least vulnerable, with their country ranked at 163.

Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected

“For the first time, we have a complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and that picture is almost unimaginably dire”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

“Climate and environmental shocks are undermining the complete spectrum of children’s rights, from access to clean air, food and safe water; to education, housing, freedom from exploitation, and even their right to survive. Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected.”

The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) reveals:

  • 240 million children are highly exposed to coastal flooding;
  • 330 million children are highly exposed to riverine flooding;
  • 400 million children are highly exposed to cyclones;
  • 600 million children are highly exposed to vector borne diseases;
  • 815 million children are highly exposed to lead pollution;
  • 820 million children are highly exposed to heatwaves;
  • 920 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity;
  • 1 billion children are are highly exposed to exceedingly high levels of air pollution[1]

READ: Reimagine a greener planet. Young people for Climate Action

A Climate Crisis disconnect

The data also reveals a disconnect between where greenhouse gas emissions are generated, and where children are enduring the most significant climate-driven impacts.

The 33 ‘extremely high-risk’ countries collectively emit just 9 per cent of global CO2 emissions. While the 10 highest emitting countries collectively account for nearly 70 per cent of global emissions.

In South East Asia, Brunei and Malaysia are the highest CO2 emitters at 16.64 and 7.6 emissions per capita (MT); while Myanmar, Cambodia, and Philippines are the lowest at 0.61, 0.69 and 1.33. Children in Myanmar, Cambodia and Philippines are amongst the worst affected to climate shocks in the region.

Children will continue to suffer the most if urgent action is not taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Children are less able to survive extreme weather events compared to adults, and are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes and diseases.


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Bold Action Needed for a Liveable Planet

UNICEF is calling on governments, businesses and relevant actors to:

  1. Increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children. To protect children, communities and the most vulnerable from the worst impacts of the already changing climate, critical services must be adapted, including water, sanitation and hygiene systems, health and education services.
  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, countries must cut their emissions by at least 45% (compared to 2010 levels) by 2030 to keep warming to no more than 1.5°C.
  1. Provide climate education to children and equip them with greens skills, critical for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change. We have a duty to prepare and protect all young people and future generations.
  1. Include young people in all national, regional and international climate negotiations and decisions, including at COP26. Children and young people must be included in all climate-related decision making.
  1. Ensure the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green, low-carbon and inclusive, so that the capacity of future generations to address and respond to the climate crisis is not compromised.

“We must acknowledge where we stand, treat climate change like the crisis it is, and act with the urgency required to ensure today’s children inherit a liveable planet,” added youth climate activists Farzana Faruk Jhumu (Bangladesh), Eric Njuguna (Kenya), Adriana Calderón (Mexico) and Greta Thunberg (Sweden) from Fridays for Future.

The UNICEF Report follows on the heels of the IPCC Report that alerted A Code Red for Humanity.


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Bunny Wira

champion for children, hero in disguise. I love kangkung!
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