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The climate crisis is a child rights crisis.  

Ensuring that our children inherit a liveable planet is just as essential as providing emergency relief during times of disasters.  

Here in Australia and around the world, the growing number of extreme weather events is impacting the lives of children. When bushfires hit, children lose their homes and whole communities. When floods strike, schools and health centres are destroyed. When droughts endure, access to food and safe water are significantly reduced.   

The scientific evidence is clear – the frequency, intensity and duration of climate-related extreme events and the slow onset of changes, such as sea level rise and increasing temperatures is escalating, and it’s putting more children’s lives in danger. Every year, environmental factors take the lives of 1.7 million children under five. We’re working to change that through our work in emergencies, our priority programs, and our advocacy.  

Climate and water

The climate crisis is here. The world has already warmed by nearly 1.1C and the last 7 years were the warmest on record.

800 m

children (over one third globally) are currently highly exposed to heatwaves. 

400 m

children are currently highly exposed to cyclones, which are increasing in frequency, and intensity.

Protecting and empowering children in the face of climate change in the Asia Pacific region. 

Over the past 30 years, the number of climate related disasters have tripled. The East Asia and the Pacific region is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate related disasters globally, with about half of the population directly affected every year. 

From the black summer bushfires along Australia’s east coast to devastating floods in Indonesia and cyclonic storms in India, we’re always there during times of emergency. We are also supporting children and young people to safeguard their future by empowering them to implement change in their communities and by giving them a voice and a platform to advocate for climate action.  

"Nearly half of the world’s children live in countries that are at extremely high risk from the impacts of climate change, which is undermining the health, safety, and development of millions of children. The urgency of this issue is why UNICEF has elevated addressing the challenge of climate change to one of the organisation’s top global priorities. Here at UNICEF Australia, we are accelerating our focus and efforts to protect, prepare and prioritise children in the climate crisis. We are doing this through advocacy with Governments, climate resilient programs especially in the East Asia and Pacific region, and enabling young leaders to help speed up the pace of change by taking their place at decision-making tables."

Photo of Nicole Breeze
Nicole Breeze
Chief Advocate for Children, UNICEF Australia
School students in Cambodia learning about solar power
In 2023, students in Cambodia participate in a UNICEF-supported course on solar powered water systems.
© UNICEF Australia/2023

Building solar energy in East Asia and Pacific

Ensuring sustainable access to a power supply is critical for essential services including water, sanitation, health, education and protection. Solar energy, when correctly designed and installed, can provide a reliable source of power to remote areas that have no access to electricity, to areas that are vulnerable to regular service interruptions and even when a natural disaster strikes, such as floods and earthquakes. In partnership with Water Mission and with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), UNICEF is working to support communities, organisations and governments in the Asia Pacific region with planning, training and technical support to help them establish and expand solar power systems. In doing so, we can support communities, health centres and schools to gain access to a sustainable source of power and water, whilst also contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We’re supporting young people by empowering them to implement 

Young people are leading local and global advocacy efforts to increase climate action, inspiring many to join the cause. UNICEF Australia’s 2020-21 Young Ambassadors consulted more than 4,000 young people aged 13-17 across Australia, identifying climate change as the greatest threat to the future wellbeing and livelihood of children and young people in Australia. Our Young Ambassadors took these findings to Canberra — along with recommendations on the other key issues identified by young Australians — and presented them to the nation’s key decision makers. Similarly, in Timor-Leste and Cambodia, we are supporting young people to develop leadership and advocacy skills, and enhancing access to decision-making platforms, providing them with meaningful opportunities to advocate for action on their most pressing issues, including climate change. 

In Burundi and Papua New Guinea, we are supporting the use of innovative technologies for cooking to significantly improve the health of families by reducing air pollution in the home. Simple and innovative cooking technologies increase thermal efficiency, reduce wood consumption for fuel, minimise deforestation caused by firewood collection, and improve indoor air quality. This has the added benefit of reducing the amount of time spent by children — often girls — away from school collecting firewood, frequently in dangerous situations. 

In Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, we are installing climate-resilient and sustainable water supply systems in health centres, schools and communities, supporting drought and disaster-prone areas to have continuous access to safe, clean water. This includes using technology for rainwater harvesting, solar water pumps and capacity building on conservation for community-based water resource management. 

Our approach to addressing high levels of chronic malnutrition in Papua New Guinea is designed to support communities to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change on food systems. This includes establishing vegetable gardens in preschools and schools and enabling students to learn about how to protect the environment, while eating a nutrient-rich diet. Establishing improved sanitation and hygiene practices in schools and communities is keeping families healthy and their local environment clean.  

UNICEF Australia’s consultations with children and young people after droughts, bushfires, and floods across Australia has repeatedly revealed that their needs and priorities are either invisible or misunderstood in disaster response, recovery, and preparedness. Partnerships such as the Bushfire Recovery Program with Royal Far West have generated insights into what child-focused recovery should look like. In addition, as climate disasters become more frequent and intense, we are working with governments and other stakeholders to create child-sensitive disaster frameworks across the country.

Pacific Fiji climate change© UNICEF/UNI218848/Pacific

Meet Timoci Naulusala, a Young Climate Activist from Fiji.

Timoci was one of the young leaders from around the world who convened at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2019 to showcase climate solutions and engage with global leaders on the defining issue of our time. The UN Youth Climate Summit is a platform for young leaders who are driving climate action to showcase their solutions at the United Nations, and to meaningfully engage with decision-makers on the defining issue of our time.  

"Climate change affects us all. We need everyone to understand that we must work as a team before it’s too late. Speak up, this is our time." 

Timoci continues to advocate for change, such as during the recent National Youth Climate Action Summit in Suva, Fiji, where Timoci expressed his views on the draft climate change bill .

Help protect children from climate change.

We need your help to protect children from the effects of climate change, fight for their voices to be heard and build a sustainable future.

Cyclone Tonga
© UNICEF/UN0581168/Wolfgramm