Photo Credit © UNICEF/Aliaga Ticona

Where are children and young people in business’ action to tackle climate change?

Maria Pia Bianchetti, Private Sector Policy and Influencing Manager, UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK)

Children and young people are severely impacted by climate change. However, little information is available about the linkages with businesses and the actions they can take to address climate change and its consequences, despite climate change being on top of the agenda for many businesses. UNICEF UK is seeking the help of the business community to fill this gap.

Children are powerful. In recent years, we have witnessed their strength courage and resilience, as they have spoken up time and time again about how climate change is affecting their lives. How it is affecting their futures. From leading protests calling on world leaders to act on climate change to writing to companies to adopt sustainable practices, children and young people have demanded bold action from every actor in society, and demonstrated they can be powerful agents for change.

Their message to us is clear: children and young people are the least responsible for climate change and yet they will bear the greatest burden of its impact.

Some businesses have recognised the urgent threat that climate change poses and have been asking for ambitious actions from Governments. Some have also adopted ambitious commitments in relation to their emissions, demonstrating their willingness to step up their efforts on climate action.

But, it is clear that urgent action is needed from everyone, including the private sector, to deliver a fair and sustainable world, where climate change and its consequences on the lives of children and young people are tackled.

And these consequences are far-reaching.

Consider how changing weather patterns are already putting the homes and livelihoods of families at risk. Children and their loved ones are forced to migrate.

Consider how children are being pushed to find ways to support their families after losing everything in floods. UNICEF has documented how in Bangladesh climate change is one of the reasons why an estimated 3.45 million Bangladeshi children are involved in child labour, including in garment factories.

Consider the risks that children face as we transition to clean technologies too. Cobalt is one of the minerals essential to the energy transition. However, this does not come without risks. Research from Amnesty International has found children working in mines extracting cobalt. They are exposed to health and safety risks, abuse, including by security guards, and illegal taxation.

With such a disproportionate impact of climate change, its consequences and even solutions on children, one would expect children and young people to be central to any commitment and action to address the problem. In almost every conference or webinar on the topic, companies refer to a duty owed to future generations to take action on climate and the environment. However, when at UNICEF UK we started looking at this topic, we were surprised to see that there is little research on the connection between companies and the effects of climate change on children and young people, or the most impactful actions that business can take to address these impacts whilst protecting their rights.

This is why we have started research that aims to fill this gap. However, we can’t do this research alone. We need businesses and professionals who are committed to find solutions for a fair and sustainable future to help us.

We want to engage with those interested in and working for climate justice, and the rights of children and young people. We want to hear the views of the business community about where they are in their journey in tackling climate change and its impacts. We also want to learn about any example of how businesses have put children and young people at the centre of their action on climate change. We are focussing in particular on the fashion, investment and energy and extractives sectors, but we are keen to hear from any company or organisation interested in helping us put together the pieces of this puzzle.

Findings from this work will help demonstrate the need and ways for companies to integrate a child and young peoples’ lens to their climate action. We hope that this work will drive a race to the top among business to deliver a sustainable and fair world to future generations.

2021 is a critical year for climate change. COP26 will be an important moment for how world and business leaders will unite to tackle the climate crisis. And UNICEF UK is determined to make sure that children and young people are front and centre in the discussions and actions that will be taken for a fair and sustainable future.

If you want to help us in this research and contribute by sharing your views, research and examples, or are interested in being kept informed of what we find out, please get in touch with Maria Pia Bianchetti at ma*******@un****.uk

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