Climate change is forcing nearly half of young Africans to rethink their plans to have children someday, a global poll conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed, underlining their uncertainty about the future of a planet in crisis.
The results were published on Wednesday at the COP27 climate conference taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
Some 243,512 young people from 163 countries participated in the UNICEF U-Report poll, over July and August of this year.
Gauging the temperature
U-Report is a UNICEF digital platform that supports youth engagement on programme priorities, emergency response and advocacy action.
Through the poll, young people were asked questions relating to their attitudes about climate change, which were sent via SMS and instant messaging technology.
Globally, two in five said climate impacts have made them reconsider their desire to have children.
Concern was highest in African regions, where nearly half of respondents said they were now on the fence. The Middle East and North Africa accounted for 44 per cent, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, it was 43 per cent.
Listen and act!
Young people in these two regions reported having experienced a range of climate shocks and, more than other respondents globally, said these shocks had impacted their access to food and water, and depleted family income overall.
“The impacts of climate change are with us now, but they are far more than floods, droughts and heatwaves. They extend to our very sense of hope,” said Paloma Escudero, head of UNICEF’s COP27 delegation.
“Especially in Africa, young people are seeing the impact these shocks are having on themselves and those they love, and it is changing their plans for the future. But it doesn’t have to. At COP27, world leaders must listen to this anxiety from young people and take immediate action to protect them.”
Suffering climate impacts
Last year, the medical journal The Lancet published a global survey which found that nearly 40 per cent of the 10,000 respondents were hesitant to have children.
This is a similar rate to the UNICEF poll, which is believed to be the first study to demonstrate the prevalence of the current sentiment in Africa.
Other findings from the U-Report poll include over half of respondents said they have experienced either drought or extreme heat, while a quarter have experienced flooding.
Two in five mentioned that they had less food to eat due to climate change, most of whom, 52 per cent, were in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by the Middle East and North Africa at 31 per cent.
Ready to run
One in five “U-Reporters” revealed that it was becoming more difficult to get clean water, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and the East Asia and Pacific region.
Three in five have even considered moving to another city or country because of climate change, something expressed by a staggering 70 per cent of respondents in the Middle East and North Africa, and 66 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.
UNICEF urged world leaders to take immediate action to protect children from the climate emergency, not only through rapidly reducing the emissions that cause global warming, but also by adapting the critical social services their young citizens rely on.
The agency stressed that adaptation measures, such as creating water systems that stand up to flooding and drought, will save lives.
Adaptation and delivery
At COP26 in Scotland last year, developed countries agreed to double support for adaptation to $40 billion a year by 2025.
This year, they must present a credible roadmap for this pledge, as a step to delivering at least $300 billion annually for adaptation by the end of the decade.
UNICEF also urges governments to find solutions to support those facing climate losses and damages, beyond the limits of what communities can adapt to, and to close the “finance gap” for addressing these irreversible changes.
Future at stake
While there is much talk at COP27 about policy decisions, “that is not what is at stake here,” Ms. Escudero remarked.
“This survey makes it clear young people’s futures are up in the air – whether they have children, whether they leave their countries, how well they survive the dangers they face,” she said.
“For their sake, success at COP27 must be measured by the delivery of long-promised financing to help communities adapt and the development of solutions to respond to loss and damage.”
Source: United Nations