As governments meet in Doha this week for the latest round of UNFCCC climate negotiations , often the focus on the technical and the political aspects of the negotiations can overshadow the fact that the underpinnings of the process is quite simply to build a safe and better future for today’s children and future generations. In fact, with sufficient action, global agreement on climate change can truly deliver for children. UNICEF is here in Doha to emphasise exactly this point.
Children are acutely impacted by climate change, particularly those in vulnerable developing countries. It is estimated that every year in the next decade 175 million children will be affected by sudden climate related disasters. It is also estimated that by 2050, an additional 25 million children will be at risk of malnutrition due to climate change. Climate change has the potential to undermine progress in all the key development gains for children such as health, education and nutrition.
Ambitious climate action is therefore essential to build a safe future for children everywhere, so that statistics like these don’t become even more extreme. Moreover, today’s children will inherit the legacy of all of today’s climate change decision making. Children will live the decisions being made now about 2020 and beyond- benefitting from low carbon transitions and adaptation or paying the price for unambitious climate change action.
When it comes to the UNFCCC therefore, all areas of the negotiations have the potential to have a transformative affect for children. The negotiations through the Durban Platform and LCA to agree a new global, legally binding climate deal by 2015 are essential to ensure there is a framework in place to ensure children everywhere can grow up without being jeopardised by climate change.
Governments need to agree the most ambitious new climate treaty, to ensure there is adequate climate action to reduce emissions and scale up adaptation and thus safeguard the world’s children from increasing the impacts of climate change such as more frequent extreme weather incidents. Ideally for UNICEF this deal will also recognise specific risks faced by children from climate change, and means to protect them.
Agreeing a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (a key issue on the table here at Doha) is also essential to build a world fit for children. A gap in targets for reducing emissions while a new deal is being negotiated would mean further unchecked climate change. Without a “rule based system” of climate targets such as Kyoto in this interim period, there would be no way to ensure that emissions don’t increase. This in turn could mean further climate impacts for children in the most vulnerable countries and prolong the transition to a low carbon society in developed countries, essential for a healthy future for children. Agreement at Doha on the timeline and conditions for the extension of the Kyoto Protocol is therefore essential for delivering for children.
Finally, scaling up finance, another hotly debated issue in the negotiations is vital for children. The global commitment to mobilise $100 billion a year of new and additional funds for climate action is a central building block in building a climate safe world for children. This commitment will help ensure there are funds available to help vulnerable communities adapt to climate impacts and facilitate the transition to a low carbon society, essential so that children have the opportunity to survive and thrive. Governments at COP 18 will consider key questions on climate finance such as deciding next steps and a timeline for progress in mobilising the funds. Agreement on these steps is important in progressing action to ensure that we are on course to build a credible climate for children.
So whilst the negotiations at UNFCCC may seem complicated and technical, in fact they are about two very simple premises- what kind of protection do we want to provide for children from climate change and what kind of future to we want to leave for today’s children to inherit? Decisions made at Doha at COP 18, and further COPs in the future will be essential in ensuring that we build a world that is climate safe, and that allows children everywhere- both now and in the future-to survive and thrive in spite of a changing climate.