Together with and for the young generation, UNICEF and UNDP are finding ways to tackle the imminent climate crisis through a series of workshops. UNICEF is also unveiling the first-ever national study on the impact of climate change on children in Thailand.
According to new global research by UNICEF, over 75 per cent of children under 18 in Thailand, or 10.3 million, have been exposed to high heatwave frequency, and almost every single child in the country will suffer high heatwaves more often and for longer in 2050 if no serious climate action is taken. An earlier global UNICEF study from 2021 further confirms that children in Thailand are at ‘high risk’ of climate change impacts, with Thailand among the 50 countries where children are most at risk. UNICEF’s new national study will reveal the climate situation for children across provinces in the country.
Children, youth and future generations will have to cope with extreme events such as floods, typhoons, droughts, heatwaves and storm surges in the future. It’s time to think beyond today by including youth in decision making and joining forces. Because they will be the ones facing the consequences of climate change, so they should be the ones to decide their own future.
Sitting several hundred kilometres away from a hybrid workshop on climate change in Bangkok, UNICEF Young People Advisory Board (YPAB) members Praewa Chaiwoot, 23, and Ranchida Rojanakit, 18, are taking part in the discussions online. Participants of the workshop are a mix of youth from all over Thailand, along with representatives from UNICEF, UNDP, Thailand’s Department of Environmental Quality Promotion and even a representative from Kenya all together to empower and hear from the youth.
“UNDP has been engaging and organizing events related to climate action, particularly on empowering youth. This is very important to rightly target those who are going to face the brunt of climate change in the future,” said Vijaya Singh, acting as UNDP’s Assistant Country Director at the time of the workshop.
The event is part of UNDP’s workshop series on climate change. It’s also the first time that UNICEF is unveiling findings from its new report “Impact Assessment of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation on Children in Thailand.” UNICEF worked closely with the Thailand Development Research Institute on the report to get a clear picture on how climate change is affecting children’s well-being and future.
“Children will be the ones who will be affected by climate change the longest. So they need to be prepared to deal with its impacts. Another point is that we, as adults, need to understand that climate change affects people unequally. So we need to identify which groups will be affected the most and what the optimal measures are to handle this,” said Pawin Talerngsri, UNICEF’s expert on climate action and the environment.
The report finds that the top 10 provinces exposed to the overall risk of climate change from 2016 to 2035 are Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Ratchasima, Si Sa Ket, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Surin, Songkla, Buri Ram, Khon Kaen and Surat Thani, respectively. There are alarming signs of increased floods during the rainy season and severe drought during the dry season. Pawin also points out that provinces in the far south are currently facing other challenges like conflicts, while provinces in the northeast are among the poorest in Thailand, which may impede their capability to cope with these risks.
“The study shows that children in rural areas with low incomes, low housing conditions, no asset ownership, no access to safe drinking water and no bank account in their family are likely to be affected by climate change the hardest, as most of emergency aid comes through a bank account,” said Pawin.
As a first-hand witness to the global warming effects in Chiang Mai, its wildfires and air quality of PM 2.5, Praewa, a YPAB member and biotechnology student from Chiang Mai University, said that education can help people change their behaviour to address climate change.
Praewa suggests showing as part of our school curriculums how behaviour changes in our daily life can make a difference, like how trash management can reduce the microplastic in the food that we consume.
Ranchida, a Grade 12 student and YPAB member from Khon Kaen, also sees the power of networking, like in this workshop, in driving change faster.
“At YPAB, there are youth from all over Thailand. Exchanging ideas along with building a network is significant. It can spark youth to participate. I want to see youth joining more conferences or meetings to be a force in proposing policies and action benefitting children the most, from a youth perspective,” said Ranchida.
With a great level of diversity among the young participants, a lot of unconventional ideas are thrown around at the workshop. From creating climate change funding organizations similar to Thai Health Promotion Foundation, to supporting more green businesses and creating popular television or Y series tackling climate change issues.
“Now, I see more possibilities to fight climate change through school projects, seeing that severe climate change problems can worsen mental health problems in families,” said Nanami Onodera, a YPAB member from Bangkok who works on mental health issues in schools. “When there are floods, this can affect children’s education and family income, increasing stress in the family and generating social problems.”
“The problem is that youth don’t know where to start and join the process,” said Anucha Makcharoen, member of Bangkok’s Children and Youth Council of Thailand. “There are limited opportunities for participation, as adults don’t see how young people can drive change. If there are 10 steps in the process to tackle climate change, let children join from the first step.”
Pawin added that currently, agencies working on the environment and on children just focus on the environment and on child-related matters, respectively. There is little integrated action between the two areas.
“Today, people view climate change either very broadly or too narrowly. There are opportunities for all of us to identify policy gaps, practical measures and alternative approaches to deal with the climate crisis. We do not see it as only the duty of the government, rather we want everyone to join as partners in tackling climate change issues together,” said Pawin.