The Climate Crisis is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index


This report, released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on August 20, 2021, assesses children’s exposure and vulnerability to climate change and environmental hazards. It also introduces a framework – the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) – that ranks countries based on levels of vulnerability to “environmental stresses and extreme weather events” faced by children there.

Stating that children are more vulnerable to climate shocks and hazards than adults, the report highlights the need to frame the climate crisis as a crisis for children’s rights. It acknowledges the overlap of social, political and economic risks with climate and environmental ones and examines how millions of children live in areas experiencing multiple risks.

The CCRI assesses 163 countries across 57 indicators. These fall under either ‘exposure to climate and environmental shocks and stresses’ (pillar 1) or ‘child vulnerability’ (pillar 2). The components examined under the first pillar include exposure to water scarcity, floods, tropical cyclones, vector borne diseases, heatwaves as well as air, soil and water pollution. Whereas those that fall under the second pillar are: child health and nutrition; education; water, sanitation and hygiene; and poverty, communication assets and social protection.

The 128-page report contains eight chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Children’s exposure to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses (Chapter 2); Children’s vulnerability to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses (Chapter 3); The Children’s Climate Risk Index (Chapter 4); Responding to the risks (Chapter 5); CCRI Methodology (Chapter 6); The climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis (Chapter 7); and Creating an environment fit for children (Chapter 8).


  1. Climate change presents an ‘extremely high risk’ to around one billion children worldwide, the report notes. Almost all children are vulnerable to at least one weather or climate hazard, but a shocking one-third of children globally (850 million) are at risk from four or more such hazards.

  2. According to the CCRI the countries where children were most at risk were: Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Whereas Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Finland and Estonia were countries where children faced the least climate risk.

  3. India ranked 26th out of the 163 countries examined. Severity of climate risk for children in the country was deemed ‘very high’.

  4. One in three children worldwide face high risk of heatwaves. Likewise, one in six children (400 million) are exposed to cyclones. Both these conditions are expected to worsen as weather pattens turn more irregular due to climate change.

  5. As high as 330 million and 240 million children are at risk of riverine and coastal flooding, respectively. Riverine flood conditions are predicted to worsen due to melting glaciers and rising sea levels will increase instances of coastal flooding, the report adds.

  6. Worsening water scarcity due to climate change will further affect the lives of 920 million children who are currently exposed to it. Another risk in the lives 600 million children across the world is vector borne disease. Diseases such as malaria and dengue are likely to affect more children as climatic changes improve living conditions for mosquitoes and other pathogens.

  7. Around 90 per cent of children in the world are exposed to air pollution exceeding 10 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre air). Contaminated air, water, soil and food also puts 815 million children vulnerable to lead pollution, the report adds.

  8. The report notes that those children whose families are dependent on the natural environment for their income, have minimal food security and no access to universal health care systems will bear the greatest burden.

  9. The climate change crisis is a multidimensional crisis and will affect children’s rights such as those specified in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It will create a nutrition crisis by affecting food security, an education crisis by affecting children’s ability to go to school and a health crisis due to air, water and soil pollution.

  10. The report highlights that better delivery of social services such as basic amenities, health care, education, social safety nets and disaster reduction measures will reduce climate risk for the most vulnerable children.

  11. An increase in investments towards development of climate adaptive technologies will help protect children from the worst effects of climate change. Educating children on the climate and inculcating ‘green skills’ will also prepare them for conditions, the report suggests.

    Focus and Factoids by Sukanya Khar.


United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), New York


United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), New York


20 Aug, 2021