Globally, the scientific community has announced the planetary emergency for climate change. Climate change is a global crisis and we have little more than a decade to undertake the urgent and unprecedented action required to limit global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Beyond that time, the risks of deadly drought, flooding, heatwaves, extreme weather and poverty will significantly worsen for hundreds of millions of people including children.
Bangladesh is often considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The Global Climate Risk Index 2020 ranked Bangladesh as the 7th most climate affected country. Bangladesh also has high levels of poverty and inequality (43.3 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day) and low per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at just one ton (compared with nearly 20 tonnes a person in the United States).
Climate change issues are of vital importance for children, not just because they are one of the most affected groups, but also because their future will be so fundamentally influenced by actions taken to meet the challenges.
Children are suffering from the affects of climate change and policies longer than the adults, making them vital stakeholders in decision making on climate change responses.
Children are affected in many ways by climate change in Bangladesh and beyond. Climate risks confronting children are diverse, ranging from direct physical impacts such as heatwave, erratic rainfall, cyclones, storm surges, and salinity that impact their education, psychology and nutrition.
The impact is falling unequally on children compared to adults. Children are more vulnerable to vector-borne diseases than adults. Undernutrition and diarrheal diseases can more easily lead to severe and often dire consequences in children; and the physical danger of disasters poses unique threats to the young.
With this in mind, Save the Children has set out to study current national climate policies and plans to ascertain how child-sensitive they are and provide recommendations on how to strengthen the focus on children's rights, including actionable and measurable results for children and youth.
Despite the many ways climate change affects them, children and youth are consistently overlooked in the design and content of climate policies and related processes. To overcome this lapse, this article will help to pay heed on the current landscape of national climate change policies, plans, strategies and the degree to which these are child-sensitive.
Government of Bangladesh recognized climate change as a "planetary emergency" and called on the world to work "on a war footing" to combat it and reduce its impacts. In this light, Save the Children has been working since 2012 to ensure child rights and voices are raised to their community and policy makers to reduce climate change footprint.
Recently, Save the Children Bangladesh had a dialogue on climate financing and children and organized a series of climate strike movement across Bangladesh. Children and youth from Bangladesh along with other 184 countries of the world joined global climate strike. Save the Children along with Green Savers jointly organized two webinars on climate justice and intergenerational equity and another on Greener Cities for Children: Expectations and Reality.
Save the Children in Bangladesh has been advocating for ensuring children's participation in the climate change and risk reduction policies. Save the Children through its child sensitive interventions is generating evidence of children's greater role not only for current generation but also for future generation when the crisis will be acute and phenomenal believing that climate crisis is an intergenerational crisis.
In every seminar, national dialogue and webinar, children and youth urged and demanded child friendly policy to come into the upcoming climate change and environment policies as well as educational policy.
Generally, climate finance refers to the flow of funds that is required to support activities aimed at adaptation and carbon mitigation to the adverse effects of climate change. The international climate finance landscape is quite complex in nature and several entities like think-tanks, banks and other financial institutions, international institutions, governments and public sector agencies are involved in myriad activities related to climate finance. These funds, however, should be child-centered in every project and programme around the world, where children are most vulnerable.
In the face of the extreme climate calamity, further burdened with Covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative to devote greater national attention and resources to keep children safe and ensure that children's health, nutrition, education and other services are shielded from the effects of climate change.
Additionally, further investments should be made in green recovery programs for economic reconstruction, better health and biodiversity conservation. The needs of children must be placed squarely at the center of our response to those dangers – before the most destructive effects of climate change are unleashed. All-inclusive approach should be taken on climate change and environment sustainability into the sectoral and cross-sectoral department in Bangladesh.
Globally, policy focus is spreading through education for children and youth, mentioned in many available literatures.
In order to put in place a strong legal and policy framework, Bangladesh over the last couple of decades has adopted and framed several policies, plans, laws, rules and regulations for the conservation of the environment, biodiversity and protection of people against the adverse effects of climate change.
Children and youth in particular, have not been given major focus in these policies. It has also formulated key climate policies such as Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP 2020), National Adaptation Plan (NAP), 8th five-year plan (2020-2025), Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 as well as sector specific National Health Adaptation Plan and others.
Education provides children with basic survival tricks during an emergency. The government in Bangladesh has included various topics on disaster and disaster management emphasizing the connection with climate change in textbooks taught in schools and other academia.
Climate policy, however, should be focused from primary to higher education. Besides, the capacity development of teachers through climate change adaptation, mitigation training, disaster management training at all levels of education should be ensured to nurture the children properly.
Moreover, the necessity of schools to be included in the climate change and environment related policies should be considered an effective management strategy.
Muzammel Haque is Senior Officer, Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation Project, Save the Children Bangladesh
Md. Badrul Alam Talukder is Project Manager, Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation Project, Save the Children Bangladesh