‘The climate crisis is also a child’s rights crisis’

One billion children are at ‘extremely high risk’ from the impacts of the climate emergency, according to new research by Scottish and international academics for the United Nations.

The findings come from a world-first tool which assesses how children across the globe are affected by climate change.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index has been developed by researchers working with Unicef to help target action that will best protect the youngest and most powerless members of the world’s population.

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It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks such as extreme storms and heatwaves, as well as their susceptibility to those events, based on their access to essential services.

The new Climate Change Vulnerability Index will help organisations across the globe better understand the scale and scope of the risk to children from climate change and guide action to tackle the problem

Youngsters in the Central African Republic, Chad and Nigeria are among the most under threat, it reveals.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index has been created using information on factors such as geographical location, temperature, incidences of flooding and drought and the duration of periods of extreme weather.

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This has been combined with data on young people’s socio-economic status, revealing how uniquely vulnerable they are to climate-related hazards.

The project has been led by the Data for Children Collaborative with Unicef and supported by the universities of Edinburgh, Stirling, Highlands and Islands and Southampton, and the office for National Statistics.

It will be presented at the UN climate summit COP26, being held in Glasgow later this year.

The index will provide Unicef’s global teams with valuable information they need to guide their response to climate change and investments in resilience to best serve the most vulnerable children of today and the future.

Lena Dominelli, professor of social work at the University of Stirling, who is part of the research project, believes it is the first time children’s experiences have been considered.

“This is a really exciting research project,” she said.

“Children’s voices are very rarely heard, and we found that previously only a handful of research projects have looked specifically at young people’s experiences of climate change.

“The index recognises this gap – that children have different experiences of climate change compared to adults – and that factors like race, religion, gender, disability, age, culture and economic standing also have an impact on how climate change will impact them.

“The climate crisis is also a child’s rights crisis, and we must understand where and how children are impacted so we can work to protect their futures.”

The project is spilt into two phases, assessing the threat to children now and in the future.

The first phase is developing the Child Climate Risk Index to provide a snapshot of the current risks of climate change to youngsters today.

The second phase involves using data variables such as temperature, occurrences of flooding and drought and disease prevalence in combination with a vulnerability index that considers health, food security and education to project ‘child climate risk’ scenarios forward to 2050.

These projections will act as an important advocacy tool, helping organisations across the globe better understand the scale and scope of children’s vulnerabilities to climate change and how to tackle them.

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