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Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

26 Feb 2020

Children and sustainability

Posted by Michael Keating

The future success of nations depends on their children’s health and well-being, but no country is ensuring their future according to a group of world experts. Many wealthy nations are doing a good job of taking care of the current needs of the young, but are undermining their future through their greenhouse gas emissions. Some poor nations have few but are unable to adequately take care of children’s needs now. The World Health Organization, UNICEF and The Lancet medical journal published a A future for the world’s children? It said that recent decades “have seen dramatic improvements in survival, education, and nutrition for children worldwide. Economic development, concerted international action, and political commitment have brought about rapid change. In many ways, now is the best time for children to be alive.” But the future is less rosy, it continued saying “…today’s children face an uncertain future. Climate change, ecological degradation, migrating populations, conflict, pervasive inequalities, and predatory commercial practices threaten the health and future of children in every country.”

The report split the world into two categories based on how they care for children today and how they are dealing with the threat of climate change. “The poorest countries have a long way to go towards supporting their children’s ability to live healthy lives, but wealthier countries threaten the future of all children through carbon pollution, on course to cause runaway climate change and environmental disaster. Not a single country performed well on all three measures of child flourishing, sustainability, and equity.” For example, Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands ranked first, second and third in having flourishing children today, but ranked low on long-term sustainability because of their high greenhouse gas emissions, which undermine the future for children. It quoted student climate activist such as Greta Thunberg from Sweden in her famous speech to last year’s World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland when she told delegates, “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” The report went on to say the world needs to listen to children and make them central to global sustainable development goals.

Deborah Morayo Adegbile (left), from Nigeria, and Greta Thunberg (second from left), from Sweden, take part in a press conference at UNICEF House announcing the collective action being taken on behalf of young people over climate change.
Credit: UNICEF

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