The world’s children can’t afford more empty promises at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), youth activists, including Greta Thunberg, said after a UN report found that virtually no child will escape the consequences. of global warming.
In the first index of its kind, released Friday, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF found that nearly all of the world’s 2.2 billion children are exposed to at least one climate or environmental risk, from catastrophic flooding to toxic air.
Last week, a UN climate panel of the world’s top atmospheric scientists warned that global warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control, with deadly heatwaves, hurricanes and other extreme events likely to get worse.
Thunberg, 18, said the UNICEF index confirmed that children would be the hardest hit, and when world leaders meet in Glasgow in November for COP26, they needed to act rather than just talk.
“I don’t expect them to, but I’d be more than happy if they could prove me wrong,” she told journalists ahead of the index’s third anniversary release of Fridays For Future, a now global youth movement that started with her solo protest outside her Swedish school.
Thunberg was joined by young activists around the world, including Mitzi Jonelle Tan, 23, from the Philippines, who spoke about doing homework by candlelight while typhoons raged outside or feared drowning in her bed as water filled her room.
After months of extreme weather and dire warnings from scientists, the “empty promises and vague plans” of world leaders were no longer enough, Tan said.
“There is no excuse for this COP… not to be the one who changes things.”
Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, said young people worldwide are leading by example, pointing to a survey by the organization that found that nine in 10 of them in 21 countries felt it was their responsibility to tackle climate change.
They were more at risk than adults in the “increasingly unrecognizable” world they would inherit, she said, less able to survive extreme weather and more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes and disease.
The UNICEF index showed that about 1 billion children in 33 mainly African low-emission countries faced a “deadly combination” of extreme weather and existing problems such as poverty, making them particularly vulnerable.
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