World Children’s Day and the climate crisis

November 19, 2021
ESG Insights

We believe that World Children’s Day, the day on which we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration and Convention on Children’s Rights by the UN General Assembly, is the perfect opportunity to emphasise the impact of climate change on children’s rights,

The climate crisis is also creating a child’s rights crisis. Children across the world have inherited a problem that is not of their making. On top of this, the COVID-19 pandemic has created even further challenges and impacts on children. It is creating a water crisis, a health crisis, an education crisis, a protection crisis and a participation crisis. It is threatening children’s very survival. In all these ways, it is infringing on children’s rights.

The unfairness of this entire problem is that children bear the greatest burden of impacts of climate change, but contribute least to the cause of the problem.

Exacerbating this is the fact that children do not experience the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation the same way as an adult. This is because they are more vulnerable to extreme weather, droughts and floods. They are more vulnerable to toxic environmental hazards and stresses. They are more susceptible to diseases that will proliferate with climate change such as malaria and dengue.  

It is also clear that the failure to address climate change head-on will only exacerbate inequality. By 2050, the cumulative damage from climate change is expected to reach US$8 trillion, impoverishing the world as a whole by 3% of GDP – with inevitable and tragic effects on the future for the next generation.

Conversely, lowering the risk of exposure to extreme weather events will have a critical impact on children’s access to basic services. More children will be able to remain in school, increases in malnutrition rates will be avoided, and ultimately, the lives and futures of many of the world’s most vulnerable children will be saved. Investments that improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, improve educational outcomes, improve access to health services and improve access to social protection for children can considerably reduce overall climate risk for hundreds of millions of children.

Additionally, as investors, we recognise that children are key stakeholders for business, as they represent the future workforce, consumers and community members. As such, we firmly believe that businesses cannot be sustainable if they do not address their impact on children.

This emerging crisis for children has been clearly shown in two recent and important reports – Save the Children’s ‘Born into the Climate Crisis’ and UNICEF’s ‘The climate crisis is a child rights crisis’. Both UNICEF and Save the Children call on recognising children as equal stakeholders and key agents of change in addressing this crisis.

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