UNICEF Report on Environmental Risks
May 28, 2022
Even in rich countries, children often do not grow up in a healthy environment. Many of these countries make life difficult for children in other parts of the world. This is shown by a UNICEF report based on data from 39 countries, as well as on climate change and resource consumption.
We have overcome the epidemic at the expense of children and young people: schools are closed, clubs are suspended, lack of social contact. Strong containment measures mean that health disorders in children are increasing exponentially. It is clear that the epidemic has put a special strain on her.
A new study by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Center in Florence looks beyond the Corona crisis. It shows long-term social development with bleak future prospects for children if the nations of the world do not fulfill their commitments.
In order for children to develop well both physically and mentally, they need a safe, healthy and sound environment. But even in rich countries, children are highly exposed to air pollution, heavy metals and noise.
Many apartments are too dark or too humid. Cities and communities provide insufficient access to parks and green spaces. Rising temperatures, biodiversity loss and extreme weather events are harming the well-being of young people, hampering their cognitive development and limiting their future prospects.
For UNICEF’s report Children and the Environment, data on the immediate and broader environment of children from 39 OECD and European Union countries were assessed as well as data on these countries’ international contribution to climate change and resource consumption.
Ranking on this basis shows how successful countries are in ensuring a child-friendly, safe, healthy and sound environment both at home and abroad. It was about protecting the children of today and tomorrow with a minimum environmental footprint. Nine indices were used for ranking.
Rich doesn’t mean it’s kid-friendly
The countries examined operate very differently on individual criteria. No country consistently provides good conditions for children. “The majority of rich countries fail to create a healthy environment for their children within their borders, and they also contribute to the destruction of children’s habitats in other parts of the world,” said Gunilla Olson, Director of Innocenti.
Although some countries such as Finland, Norway, Canada, and Australia can provide their children with a relatively good living environment today, their high resource consumption is a serious threat to the future of children and future generations. If all the people around the world lived like the average in the countries considered, then 3.3 of the land would be needed. The range extends from 1.2 land in Colombia to eight in Luxembourg.
In rich countries, high consumption of raw materials also leads to large amounts of waste – an average of 529 kilograms per capita per year. E-waste is the fastest growing part of waste, containing toxins such as mercury, cadmium and lead.
Other countries such as Costa Rica, Romania and Chile use fewer resources but provide their children with a poor environment. But even some rich countries like the USA or Belgium are not able to create safe conditions for their children.
Spain tops the rankings, followed by Ireland and Portugal. These countries provide a good environment for children and contribute less to global environmental problems in comparison.
Germany ranks ninth, but it is a particularly poor performer when it comes to noise pollution. Noise has health effects on pregnancy and childbirth as well as stress and cognitive performance in children. Poor families are particularly affected.
Low trust in governments
“We live in many regions at the expense of today’s children and future generations,” said UNICEF Germany Director-General Christian Schneider. “Even in rich countries, children grow up in conditions that make them sick, impair their development and limit their chances of life.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund called on governments and companies to take immediate action and fulfill their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Children’s interests must be included at all levels of decision-making.
UNICEF also studied awareness of climate and environmental issues among 15-year-olds. It’s particularly high in South Korea, and Germany also brings in good value. Romania is at the bottom here.
The United Nations emphasizes that children and young people are highly committed to environmental protection and sustainability and are playing an increasing role in regional and international climate debates.
According to a survey conducted in six rich countries, almost half of young people feel so anxious about their environment that it affects their daily life and life satisfaction. Three out of five respondents believe that their government is not protecting the environment sufficiently. Because of the climate crisis, two out of five are unsure if they want to have children.