On the eve of Earth Day and the Leaders Summit on Climate in which 40 heads of state met to discuss their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Children in All Policies 2030 (CAP-2030), born from the WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission, A Future for the world’s children? officially launched to a global audience on Wednesday 21st April 2021 outlining bold plans for children and the climate crisis.
With eminent speakers from across the world and audiences of over 10,000 tuning in globally via Twitter and Youtube, CAP-2030 announced the start of nationally-driven programmes in focus countries to preserve children’s health and futures, including from the climate crisis and commercial exploitation. Focus countries for national action announced during the launch were: Argentina, France, Ghana, India, Nepal, New Zealand and Pacific Island countries, Senegal, South Africa and Sweden.
“The true test of the Commission’s success in tackling the global child health crisis, will be measurable progress at national level to protect children from climate change and other new threats to their health and well-being, and secure their future.”
(Dr Sarah Dalglish, Executive Director, CAP-2030)
The Commission, published in February 2020, comprised of 40 child health experts from countries around the world, identified pressing new threats to children’s health and well-being such as climate change and harmful commercial marketing of fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol, tobacco and breastmilk substitutes, among other products and services. It ranked countries in a new Child Flourishing and Futures Index and found that not a single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures, and called for action on its recommendations.
“One lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic that we should bear in mind when facing other crises is that government policies—in every sector and across all Sustainable Development Goals—must form a coherent package to address children’s specific needs. To determine those needs, we must seek children’s input and take their concerns and hopes into account.”
(Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand)
The work in France will involve interaction with children on their ideas and fears about climate change; Nepal will be studying climate-induced geo-hazards in remote areas and use Citizen Science methods to work with young people; Pacific Island countries will concentrate on amplifying Indigenous children’s voices on climate change and environmental justice; Sweden will improve municipal policies on adolescents’ mental health and sustainability; and Argentina will look at children’s rights and working across sectors for children.
Every child is threatened by climate change – lessons from the launch
Every one of the 2.4 billion children on the planet will be impacted by climate change, including through heat stress; severe weather, including storms, floods, droughts and wildfires; food and water insecurity; displacement and forced migration; air pollution; vector-borne and waterborne diseases; and allergies. In addition to protecting children through urgent global climate change mitigation measures, children’s needs must be taken care of in disaster reduction and adaptation plans.
Some impacts a child suffers are irreversible and can affect his or her physical and mental health throughout the life course. Many children are already suffering these impacts as well as ‘eco-anxiety’, explaining why millions of children and young people in more than 125 countries have mobilized in the climate movement under School Strikes for Climate and other groups.
“The climate crisis is the critical challenge of our time…to save our health and future, we ask governments to urgently take decisive action to phase out fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy. Let’s not waste any more time!”
(Almaaz Mudaly, youth climate activist, South Africa)