UNICEF: Poorest children hit by climate change

The world's poorest and most vulnerable children are being hit hardest by the impact of climate change, according to a new report from UNICEF UK.

Published exactly 10 years after the UK signed the Kyoto Protocol, Our Climate, Our Children, Our Responsibility called for immediate action from Government to make children a priority in the climate change agenda.

It described how children, especially in Africa and Asia, face increased violence and disease, and scarcer food and clean water, causing up to an extra 160,000 deaths a year.

It said climate change is threatening achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals relating to children.

David Bull, UNICEF UK’s executive director, said: “Those who have contributed least to climate change – the world’s poorest children – are suffering the most.”

According to the report, climate change could cause an additional 40,000 to 160,000 child deaths per year in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa through increased poverty.

Temperature increases of two degrees Celsius could put an extra 30m-200m people at risk of hunger, and childhood diseases such as malaria will spread to new areas.

UNICEF called on Government to ensure CO2 emissions are slashed by at least 80% by 2050 and urged the Department for International Development to make the effect of climate change on children a mainstream issue.

The organisation also urged businesses in the UK to substantially reduce emissions and contribute to the costs of mitigating and adapting to climate change.

“Many more children could die,” Mr Bull added. “It’s clear that a failure to address climate change is a failure to protect children.”

The UK public is being urged to join UNICEF’s campaign to increase the 2050 emissions reduction target and include aviation and shipping in the Climate Change Bill.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also warned that up to a billion people could lose their homes as a result of climate change within the next 50 years.

Speaking at an ippr conference, Craig Johnstone, the UNHCR deputy high commissioner, said rising sea levels or food and water shortages could force millions from the their homes.

Kate Martin

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