Climate change affects children now: UNICEF
The United Nations Childrens' Fund says talk of climate action for future generations is misleading given the livelihood of millions of children around the world already adversely affected by climate change.
The United Nations Childrens Fund says talk of climate action for future generations is misleading given hundreds of millions of children around the world are already adversely affected by climate change.
UNICEF New Zealand's international advocacy manager Sarah Morris told Koroi Hawkins, that in the Pacific rising sea levels, severe weather events and food and water shortages impinge on children's rights.
SARAH MORRIS: Our UN partners in the region tell us that climate change is the number one biggest issue facing children and their families in the Pacific region. So where globally people think about the effect that climate change is going to have on children in the future. What we are seeing already in the Pacific is that the effects are happening now. So we have got you know climate change is causing an increasing frequency of droughts floods and severe weather events in the region. So we have got you know rising sea levels we have got issues in places like Kiribati were there is too much water from rising sea levels and also too little water from poor access to drinking water through salty water sources and things like that. So a lot of events kind of caused by global warming which are sort of conspiring to have terrible effects on children. And you know people often think well climate change affects everyone and that's true but for children they are often the most vulnerable and what we are seeing is the effects of global warming on the major killers of children like malaria and diarrhea and malnutrition, means that children are often the most vulnerable population group if you like and we are seeing that in the Pacific now.
KOROI HAWKINS: We often hear about Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands and such but I think people forget that all throughout the Pacific even in the bigger Melanesian communities who have lived in those places for hundreds of years. What is been done to assist them in their current situation and maybe also looking forward to the future.
SM: I think you are right, I think it is a widespread problem and what we have seen in recent events in Papua New Guinea for example have severe droughts and severe flooding and severe frosts also which is affecting food security in the region and leading to malnutrition of children there. So in terms of what is happening, UNICEF we are often you know some of the first responders in terms of support for things like water and sanitation and emergency response. And we are also sort of long term development partners so investing in things like renewable energy, cyclone proof schools, solar panels, protecting water sources and using sort of technology to create sort of cyclone proof water pumps for example. But I guess what is happening right now with these global talks in Paris is there is a really UNICEF has a UN mandate to protect the rights of children living in these countries and we see climate change as a violation of children's rights. You know children have a right to a safe clean healthy environment to live in and climate change is threatening that all over the region.
KH: And how important is it that something concrete come out of Paris and if it doesn't what is the forecast for the effects of climate change on children?
SM: I think the forecast, just to start with that is actually really bleak for children in the Pacific region and I think that the Paris talks now are incredibly important, we need to see an ambitious agreement of countries who are meeting in Paris. We need to see an ambitious agreement for curbing emissions but we also need to see that backed up with adequate finance and with strict timetables with mechanisms to regularly review the target setting of the different countries. Because if we don't we are going to just see an escalation of these increasing frequency of droughts and floods. I mean we have the natural sort of El Nino seasons that go through the Pacific but what we are seeing is with the global warming that, that is intensifying all of those weather systems and so we will also see people needing to migrate from low lying islands and atolls because, you know life isn't viable in some of those places with increasing sea levels and so on. So we really need to see world leaders stepping up and I was part of the climate marches on the weekend and I think there is a global movement calling on our leaders to make these commitments to invest in renewable energy and technology but to reduce also make incentives for people to reduce their emissions to try and curb this kind of bleak forecast that we have for children.
KH: And what about mitigation and adaptation as you say it is already affecting children is there anything of that nature that you are also wanting to come out of Paris?
SM: I think you can't do one without the other so mitigation we have sort of talked about, I think adaptation is incredibly important and I think education is also really important. Also I just want to mention the UN sustainable development goals that countries signed up to with the UN agreement that was adopted in September and New Zealand was part of that agreement also. The 17 goals to sort of take us through the next 15 years looking at ways that we need to improve human development, protect our planet. We need to really play our part we are a small country but we have a voice we can be a leader in this, in this work and we need to make commitments here in New Zealand and also here in our region.
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