Climate Change, Children and Poverty: Engaging Children and Youth

“We have the moral authority to make a change because we are going to be affected the most and we will be living with the burden of the effects of climate change,” 16 year-old Amanda Cronin, iMatter Youth Council member    


“Although adults help facilitate action, youth can be the fuel in the engine that make it happen,” 18 year-old Alex Loznak, Our Children’s Trust     


In a Poverty Brief published by the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) at the University of Bergen, Norway, Equity for Children argues that children and youth, particularly those living in poverty, must be empowered and supported to project their voice and to be part of the conversation in mitigation and adaptation planning and action. Including the voice and needs of children at all levels of decision-making will help create a more sustainable, equitable and resilient society.


Children’s vulnerability to climate change can be understood as an intersection of three axes. The first is exposure; the extent to which children live in a physical location that is vulnerable to drought, floods, extreme weather events and sea level rise. Recent estimates by UNICEF indicate that 160 million children live in drought-prone areas, and half a billion more live in zones at risk to high floods and severe storms.[i] The second axis is socio-economic, with vulnerability to hazards due to a lack of resources, poverty and marginalization. Families without adequate incomes and assets, protective infrastructure and housing, access to basic services, and inadequate nutrition and clean water, face the greatest risk in a changing climate. The third axis is time, today’s children and future generations will bear the brunt of environmental impacts, creating an inter-generational injustice without precedent.


All children fall somewhere along these three axes, but it is the children who live in greatest poverty and in the most exposed places, that face the greatest risks. More than just passive victims, these young people, often with the support of their caregivers and communities, represent agents of change and have consistently demonstrated the capacity to devise local solutions, participate in global conversations and contribute to a safe and sustainable future.


This brief leverages a human rights approach, based on the Convention of the Rights of the Child’s Article 12, which states that children have a right to participation and to be heard.  It argues that by engaging children and youth, particularly those from marginalized communities, in the design and implementation of policies and actions to address poverty linked to climate change, policy makers, governments, civil society and the private sector can create more resilient and equitable societies.  Within the context of the specific impacts of global warming on children and, separately, on the poor, the brief will discuss firstly, why children and youth should be empowered to take action to address the impacts of climate change, particularly those that exacerbate poverty; and secondly, it will explain how this can be done by highlighting case studies and best practices.


Read the full brief here.


This brief was published by the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) at the University of Bergen, Norway on June 24, 2016.

[i] UNICEF, “Unless we act now: The impact of climate change on children”, November 2015.















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Equity for Children participated in the series of talks organized by MUNA-UNICEF Argentina to promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences among municipalities on various topics related to the rights of children and adolescents.

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