Ireland is fifth-best country for children, but one of worst on climate

Report finds lack of action in tackling climate change threatens ‘every child’s future’

Students take part in a climate protest in Dublin last summer.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

Students take part in a climate protest in Dublin last summer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

 

Ireland is among the top five countries in the world to be a child, but one of the worst when it comes to tackling climate change, which threatens children the world over, a landmark report published on Tuesday finds.

The report, A Future for the World’s Children?, is published by Unicef, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Lancet. It ranks 180 countries on the welfare of children and finds Ireland to be fifth when it comes to “child flourishing” indicators such as health, education and nutrition.

The four countries ahead of Ireland are France, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea and Norway in first place.

However, the wealthiest countries, including Ireland, “threaten every child’s future through insufficient action to tackle climate change”.

Ireland is ranked 154th on delivering on CO2 emissions targets, says the report, which warns Ireland is emitting 208 per cent more CO2 than its 2030 target. We currently emit 8.35 tonnes of CO2 per capita, per year.

Children were exposed to 51 million alcohol ads during just one year of televised football, cricket and rugby

This compares with the 5.8 tonnes per capita being emitted in the UK, 6 tonnes per capita in Denmark and 6.07 in Spain. Higher emissions are evident in Germany (9.73 tonnes per capita), the United States(16.24 tonnes) and Bahrain (23 tonnes).

The lowest emissions are found in the poorest countries including Burundi (0.05 tonnes), the Central African Republic (0.07 tonnes), and Sudan (0.45 tonnes per capita per year).

Harmful marketing

The threat to children from harmful marketing is also highlighted. Children in some countries, says the report, “see as many as 30,000 advertisements on television alone in a single year”.

Industry self-regulation had failed,according to one of the reports’ authors, Prof Anthony Costello.

“Self-regulation has not hampered commercial ability to advertise to children. For example, despite industry signing up to self-regulation in Australia, children and adolescent viewers were still exposed to 51 million alcohol ads during just one year of televised football, cricket and rugby,” he said.

“And the reality could be much worse still. We have few facts and figures about the huge expansion of social media advertising and algorithms aimed at our children.”

Among the measures countries must implement to protect children are to stop CO2 emissions “with the utmost urgency”, place children and adolescents at the centre of efforts to achieve sustainable development, and “tighten regulation of harmful commercial marketing”.