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1 Billion Children Live In One Of 33 Countries Classified As “Extremely High-risk”, UNICEF

UNICEF report launched today has revealed that young people living in Nigeria are among those most at risk of the impacts of climate change, threatening their health, education and protection.

The report further hinted that, Climate Crisis is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index is the first comprehensive analysis of climate risk from a child’s perspective. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones and heatwaves, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks, based on their access to essential services.

Launched in collaboration with Fridays for Future on the third anniversary of the youth-led global climate strike movement, the report 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”.

The findings reflect the number of children impacted today; figures likely to get worse as the impacts of climate change accelerate.

Nigeria is ranked second among these countries, together with Chad, and just after the Central Afracan Republic (ranked first). The report found Nigerian children are highly exposed to air pollution and coastal floods, but also that investments in social services, particularly child health, nutrition and education can make a significant difference in our ability to safeguard their futures from the impacts of climate change.

UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins said, the climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis.

He stated that, “Nigeria is not immune to the effects of climate change, but we can act now to prevent it from becoming worse. We need to  invest in the services children depend on to survive and thrive such as water, healthcare and education to protect their futures from the impacts of a changing climate and degrading environment.”

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

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

An estimated 850 million children – 1 in 3 worldwide – live in areas where at least four of these climate and environmental shocks overlap. As many as 330 million children – 1 in 7 worldwide – live in areas affected by at least five major shocks.

The report 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 – including Nigeria – collectively emit just 9 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Conversely, the 10 highest emitting countries collectively account for nearly 70 per cent of global emissions. Only one of these countries is ranked as ‘extremely high-risk’ in the index.

“The frightening environmental changes we are seeing across the planet are being driven by a few but experienced by many,” said Peter Hawkins. “Children know climate change is a threat to their future, and they are calling on world leaders to act. So far, too little has been done, but we still have time. We must urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work as a global community to build a better world for all children.”

Without the urgent action required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, children will continue to suffer the most. Compared to adults, children require more food and water per unit of their body weight, are less able to survive extreme weather events, and are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes and diseases, among other factors.

UNICEF, therefore called on governments, businesses and relevant actors to: 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; Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, comprehensive and urgent action is required. Countries must cut their emissions by at least 45% (compared to 2010 levels) by 2030 to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

More so, Provide children with climate education and greens skills, critical for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change. Children and young people will face the full devastating consequences of the climate crisis and water insecurity, yet they are the least responsible. We have a duty to all young people and future generations.

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. 

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.

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