COP26, Children, and Climate Change

UNICEF: COP26, Children, and Climate Change

The climate crisis impacts everyone, but experts say its threats are magnified for children and according to a UNICEF study released this summer, a staggering one billion children are at extremely high risk of its impacts. The UN body is currently in Glasgow, working to frame the climate crisis through the lens of children's rights. "COP26 must be the COP for children," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement.

Without action to rein in global emissions and warming, the world's children will live through significantly more climate disasters than their grandparents. And compared to kids who lived during pre-industrial times, today’s youth will experience events of increased frequency and intensity, like twice as many wildfires and up to 54 times the number of heatwaves.

Why This Matters

The outcomes of COP26 have the potential to bring climate-damaging emissions to a halt and create a better future for children. Currently, the world is on track to blow past 2 degrees Celsius of warming, which would create an even hotter and less stable world, especially for marginalized and impoverished communities. It's imperative that leaders set ambitious targets -- and put them into action as soon as possible.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Washington Post: "When I look at my granddaughters, who will very probably [live] to the end of the century, I wouldn't like them to come to say that the planet is hell and that I have not done enough to avoid it."

Climate Stress, Climate Betrayal

Young generations are well aware of the climate risks in their future. A first-of-its-kind study published this fall found that over half of young people aged 16-25 are worried about climate change and feel betrayed by their governments' lack of action. UNICEF's platform for COP26 includes pushing for children and young people to have a seat at the climate policy table -- as significant stakeholders in the outcome of these policies, they should be able to make meaningful contributions.

Building Blocks for Climate Action

In addition to UNICEF's advocacy plan, delegates at COP26 will hear about the climate actions kids want to see in a novel format: a Lego instruction booklet. The manual is based on research and workshops the company did with thousands of children ages 8-18 worldwide, and provides "building instructions for a better world." Some of its key principles include reducing emissions, leaders changing their behavior, and helping people and future generations.