9 in 10 children are worried about climate change, finds new report from VotesforSchools and UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK)


Home > Media Contacts and Press Releases > 9 in 10 children are worried about climate change, finds new report from VotesforSchools and UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) (clone)

  • Report of 46,045 children finds 95% are concerned about climate change
  • 5% of UK children say climate change will affect their rights
  • 89% feel not enough is being done
  • 81% feel young people are not being listened to
  • Biggest fears are: animals becoming extinct, extreme weather, less food and water, poor air quality and harm to people’s health

Friday 22 October 2021 – With just over one week to go until the start of COP26, a new report from VotesforSchools and the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) has found that children and young people across the UK are extremely concerned about the climate crisis.

More than 46,045 children took part in one of the biggest debates of its kind, with 9 out of 10 (95%) saying they are concerned about climate change and more than two thirds (73.5%) believing it will affect their human rights.

89% of children said they don’t feel enough is being done to tackle the climate crisis, and 81% don’t feel they are being listened to. When asked to select their top three choices of who is most responsible for tackling climate change, 11% said businesses, 14% said scientists, 14% said individuals, 26% voted for the public – while 35% said it was the role of decision makers like governments. Ahead of the UK’s presidency of COP26 on 1 November, UNICEF UK is asking for children to be at the front of world leaders’ minds when making decisions on the climate crisis.

Anna Kettley, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy, Programmes and Safeguarding at the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK), said: “Young people are anxious about the future we’re leaving them, and they have every right to be. Climate change is having, and will continue to have a profound impact on children’s lives for generations to come, threatening their right to education and health, their right to live in a clean and safe environment and their right to survive and thrive.

According to UNICEF’s recently launched Children’s Climate Risk Index, over half the world’s children (1 billion children) live in areas at high risk of climate and environmental hazards – including droughts, floods and severe weather and heatwaves, along with being more vulnerable to climate related displacement, and environmental stresses including air and lead pollution. According to the report, the three biggest climate risk factors for British children are coastal floods, heatwaves and water and soil pollution.

The new VotesforSchools report finds that children’s biggest climate concerns for the world are: animals and plants becoming extinct (26%); less food and water available (20%) and harm to people’s health (17%). Their biggest concerns for the UK include an increase in extreme weather (22%), poor air quality (17%), harm to people’s health (17%) and less food and water available (17%).

Speaking about their worries, one child aged 11 years from Scotland said: “It can change the right to go outside and the right to a healthy amount of water. The earth is heating up, which will cause shortages of water in some areas and flooding in others, climate change needs to be helped. It needs attention and it needs it ASAP!”

Another aged 14 from London added: “Children have to live with the mistakes of adults, their wrongs and opinions. But as we grow-up we as a generation understand what is going on with the world and should have a valid say.”

Dafne Keen, 16 years-old, UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) Supporter, said:Climate change is incredibly worrying for our generation, who have done the least to cause the climate crisis and yet are the ones most at risk. Young people are going to be handed a problem we didn’t create, one that will begin to drastically impact our lives if it isn’t resolved by those with the power to do so now.”

Ahead of COP26, UNICEF UK is calling on the Government to formerly recognise that the climate crisis is a child rights crisis, and commit to a child’s right to a healthy and safe environment by signing the Intergovernmental Declaration on Children Youth and Climate Action.

Kettley added: “Unless this crisis is treated with the urgency it deserves by every government at COP26, children in the UK will grow up in a very different environment than we did – a hotter, wetter, more polluted Britain, with toxic levels of air pollution. Globally we know that there are children already living in places of high risk and without urgent action, crops will fail, extreme weather will threaten survival and destroy homes, leaving millions of children displaced and unable to access the vital education and health services they need”.

Penny Lamb, Director of Partnerships at VotesforSchools says: “At VotesforSchools we are passionate about children and young people having an informed, considered voice on issues that matter; and making sure those voices are heard and have impact. There is no bigger issue for our children than climate change and their future, so we are delighted to have been able to work alongside UNICEF UK to make sure their views are represented ahead of COP26.”

Sign UNICEF UK’s petition asking the UK Government to use COP26 to protect every child from the climate crisis and put them at the heart of decisions on climate: https://unicef.uk/cop-petition


Notes to Editors:

About the data

VotesforSchools received 45,830 votes from the UK, including England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as 215 international votes. The children who took part were aged between 4 and 18 years of year. Lessons and debates took place between September 9th and October 1st 2021.

The full report will be available at www.votesforschools.com on Friday 22 October. Data tables are available on request.

About VotesforSchools

Each week VotesforSchools creates resources to help teachers and youth leaders hold informed discussions with their children on issues of the day; the children are then given a chance to vote on a question, and leave a comment. The team at VotesforSchools is passionate about making sure these voices are heard, and have an impact. They regularly receive 30,000 votes from children aged 5-18, and work with a huge range of partners to have as much impact as possible.

In the run up to this year’s COP26 conference, VotesforSchools has partnered with UNICEF UK to ask one of the most pressing issues of the day ‘Will Climate Change affect children’s rights?’

For more information visit www.votesforschools.com

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work for children. We also promote and protect children’s rights in the UK and internationally. We are a UK charity, entirely funded by supporters.

United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK), Registered Charity No. 1072612 (England & Wales), SC043677 (Scotland).

For more information visit unicef.org.uk. Follow UNICEF UK on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.

For more information, please contact:

Clare Quarrell or Charlotte Tromans, UNICEF UK London, Tel: +44 207 375 6030, [email protected]