With children in mind, UNICEF urges action on climate change

Climate change, one of the most pervasive environmental problems that has confronted human-kind, increases children’s vulnerability to hunger, malnutrition, water-borne diseases and other illnesses and threaten their basic rights.

With this in mind, and in wake of the UN COP21 in Paris, UNICEF has launched a call for action to be taken now to address climate change, especially given that it poses a major threat to humanity now and in the future.

UNICEF noted in a press release issued on Friday that while Guyana is a net sink country for greenhouse gases, it is still extremely vulnerable to the physical, social, economic, and ecological risks resulting from this global environmental problem, particularly given its low-lying nature. Consequently, global climate change is one of the most critical threats endangering the country’s environment and development objectives, the release said.

The direct impacts of climate change, such as flooding of coastal areas, overtopping of sea defences, and impacts on water resources, are very real. It noted that children and women are among those most affected; the impact is often more severe for children living in poverty, indigenous groups, and for children living with disabilities.

The release pointed to a recent report released by UNICEF titled: ‘Unless we act now; The impact of climate change on children’, which highlights that more than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high incidence of flooding, while 160 million live in high drought severity zones, leaving them extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The vast majority of the children living in areas with extremely high risk of floods are in Asia, and the majority of those in areas at risk of drought are in Africa.

In Guyana, UNICEF has been actively involved in integrating climate change, and environmental issues across the education system, including among other things, policies and legislation, education sector plans and teacher education, the release also noted. This will help to ensure that children’s environmental rights are realised, as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it added.

UNICEF pledged to “continue our commitment to building knowledge and providing the basis for children to be change agents and to contribute to safeguarding their future,” working in partnership with the Ministry of Education. Cultivating positive attitudes and actions towards climate change from a very early age are key to success, and with this in mind, the release noted, UNICEF Guyana has supported climate change education initiatives at the nursery, primary and secondary levels of the school system in Guyana.

Starting young is the best way to mold responsible adults and preserve the environment for future generations.

Children are the adults of the future and failure to take action now to address the issue of climate change will have serious impacts for the future of our children. They are the ones who will pay the price for our actions or inaction, UNICEF said.

It quoted Britain’s Prince Charles as saying in his opening speech at COP21 that we should “consider the needs of the youngest generation, because none of us has the right to assume that for our today they should give up their tomorrow.”

As the outcomes of COP21 will demonstrate, it will take a truly collaborative effort to ensure that we create a sustainable environment for our children and grandchildren, the release stated.

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