UNICEF’s environmental risk report: We live at the expense of children

Updated on 24/05/2022 at 09:34

  • In the richest countries in the world – including Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway – children grow up in a relatively healthy environment.
  • At the same time, the majority of these countries contribute disproportionately to the global environmental degradation, thereby endangering the present and future of all children.
  • These are the results of the latest report from UNICEF’s research center Innocenti.

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The report “Places and Spaces. Environments and children’s well-being” shows: If all humans consumed as much as the population of the surveyed OECD and EU countries, there would be 3.3 planets as the earth needed. If every human being were to use as many resources as the people of Canada, Luxembourg and the United States, at least five lands would be needed. Also in Germany, the consumption of resources is too high: Globally, 2.9 soil types would be needed for the German way of life.

The current UNICEF report documents how well countries manage to create a healthy, child-friendly environment for all girls and boys and to ensure an intact environment – both within national borders and outside. To this end, comparable data on the immediate and distant environment of children from 39 OECD and EU countries, as well as data on these countries’ contributions to climate change, resource consumption and electronic waste production, were evaluated.

The analysis makes it clear that no country offers consistently good environmental conditions for children in all areas studied. Spain, Ireland and Portugal are at the top of the international country rankings. In comparison, the three countries offer the children living there a good environment and contribute less to global environmental problems. Germany ranks 9th in the top third for environmental risks and global responsibility.

Some of the richest countries in the world – including Australia, Belgium, Canada and the United States – have serious and far-reaching effects on the global environment in terms of CO2 emissions per capita. per capita, e-waste production and total resource consumption. At the same time, they are at the bottom of the international comparison when it comes to creating a healthy environment for their children. In contrast, the poorer OECD and EU countries in Latin America and Europe contribute less to global environmental problems.

“We live in many areas at the expense of today’s children and future generations”

“The majority of rich countries fail to provide a healthy environment for all children within their borders, and they also contribute to the destruction of children’s habitats in other parts of the world,” said Gunilla Olsson, director of UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Institute. Florence. “In some cases, we find that countries that provide relatively healthy environments for children at home are also among the largest producers of pollutants that destroy children’s environments in other countries.”

Facts from the UNICEF report:

  • More than 20 million children in the OECD and EU countries surveyed have elevated levels of lead in their blood. Lead is one of the most dangerous environmental toxins.
  • Although Finland, Iceland and Norway offer their children a healthy environment, they have very high greenhouse gas emissions, high resource consumption and produce a lot of electronic waste.
  • In Iceland, Latvia, Portugal and England, household surveys showed that every fifth child is exposed to moisture and mold in the home; in Cyprus, Hungary and Turkey it is more than one in four children.
  • Many children breathe toxic air both inside and outside their homes. Mexico has the highest number of years of healthy life lost due to air pollution at 3.7 years per year. thousand children, while Finland and Japan have the lowest with 0.2 years. In a comparison of the countries considered, Germany is in the middle. Statistically, children here lose on average half a healthy year of life due to air pollution.
  • In Belgium, the Czech Republic, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland, more than one in 12 children is exposed to high levels of pesticides. There is evidence that pesticides adversely affect children’s health in a number of different ways.

“In many areas, we live at the expense of today’s children and future generations. The report’s findings show that even in rich countries, children grow up in conditions that make them sick, impair their development and limit their opportunities in life,” says Christian Schneider. Executive Director of UNICEF Germany. “The federal government should catch up here and use the current G7 presidency, for example, to make decisive progress in protecting the climate and the environment – for children and young people in Germany and worldwide.”

UNICEF calls for the following steps to protect and improve the environment of children:

  • The governments of the countries surveyed need to reduce waste, air and water pollution at national, regional and local levels and provide children with quality housing and an environment where they can thrive and reach their potential. This is especially true for disadvantaged children, who are often exposed to higher levels of environmental impact.
  • Governments and policy makers in the countries surveyed must ensure that the needs of children are included in their decision-making. At all levels, from parents to politicians, children need to be heard and considered when formulating policies that will impact future generations.
  • The governments of the countries and businesses surveyed should immediately take effective action to meet their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Adapting to climate change should be a high priority for both governments and the international community.

The report “Places and Spaces. Environments and children’s well-being” builds on previous research on child well-being in UNICEF Report Cards. UNICEF Research Center Innocenti is part of UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. It explores current and new issues related to growing children. The aim is to provide information for the strategic orientation of programs for children and to initiate global debates on children’s rights and their development.


From peanut paste and water purification tablets to vaccines, emergency tents and mosquito nets, millions of children around the world benefit from these supplies every year. But smaller amounts are also part of UNICEF’s relief efforts.

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