Advocacy on ECD, Climate Change, Environmental Degradation to put young children at the heart of climate action
“The Sustainable Development Goals recognize that early childhood development can help drive the transformation we hope to achieve over the next 15 years.” - UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (2015)
Young children are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. ECD policies and programs are our most valuable tools to provide a cost-effective, comprehensive, immediate, and enduring path to achieving climate resilience and Sustainable Development while enhancing climate mitigation.
Climate change has an unequal burden on young children. Nearly 90% of the global health burden related to climate change is borne by children under five (Sheffield and Landrigan, 2011). More than 1.7 million premature deaths among children under five are caused by pollution and toxic substances annually (WHO, 2017). Young children are disproportionately affected across all nurturing care components as they are uniquely vulnerable to extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding, storms, as well as indirect climate effects such as food and water insecurity, climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases (Lancet, 2022). They also face increased health risks from pollution exposure through the air, water, and chemicals.
Since 2019, ARNEC has been working on the intersection of ECD, climate change and environmental degradation in collaboration with partners with the Ha Noi Call to Action adopted at the ARNEC Conference in Vietnam and subsequent publication of the ARNEC Connections 2020. Building on these efforts, ARNEC launched an initiative to strengthen knowledge, evidence, policies, and strategies to support clean, safe, and sustainable environments for young children and created a regional alliance with Save the Children and UNICEF EAPRO to help galvanize this work.
We have been leveraging our network to connect country-level, regional, and global partners to support this agenda at various platforms, such as webinars, national/regional and global calls to action and social media in the lead up to key global events, e.g., COP27, World Health Day, and the UNGA. ARNEC has facilitated a global scoping study to articulate the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on young children's development with recommendations for an ECD-focused approach to climate actions and environmental protection.
We continue working with global and other regional ECD networks (ECDAN, ISSA, ANECD, AfECN) to support inter-regional advocacy and connect stakeholders. By building partnerships within and across regions and sectors, we create a global movement for ECD and climate resilience.
This 2-pager highlights the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on young children across nurturing care components in the Asia Pacific context.
Our most vulnerable are also our most valuable.
The UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office has released two resources on young children, particularly supporting early learning and development beyond the pandemic and addressing environmental shocks and hazards that worsen inequality among children.