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Canada would require five Earths to sustain its current resource consumption, destroying children’s environments globally – UNICEF Canada

Press Release

FLORENCE/NEW YORK/TORONTO, 24 May 2022 – Countries like Canada are creating unhealthy, dangerous and noxious conditions for children worldwide, according to the latest Report Card published today by UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti.

UNICEF Report Card 17 compares how 39 countries fare in providing healthy environments for children. Despite its abundance of wealth and environmental resources, Canada ranks 28th among 39 wealthy countries in the environmental well-being of children and youth.

“The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. It affects not only the world we leave for future generations but the rights of every child today, especially Indigenous and racialized children, those with disabilities or living in the lowest income level,” said David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. “Young people are the least responsible for, but the most affected by, the impacts of climate change. Canada must take more responsibility for the world it gives to children today and the world it leaves for future generations.”

The report features indicators such as exposure to harmful pollutants including toxic air and pesticides; access to green spaces and safe roads; and countries’ contributions to the climate crisis, consumption of resources and waste production. These impacts are visible in children’s minds and bodies, and measured in lost years of health. The impacts range from poor cognitive development to cancer.

While Spain, Ireland and Portugal feature at the top of the league table overall, every country is failing to provide healthy environments for all children across all indicators. Some of the wealthiest countries, including Australia, Belgium, the United States, and Canada, have a severe and widespread impact on global environments – based on CO2 emissions, e-waste and resource consumption per capita – and also rank low overall on creating a healthy environment for children within their borders including pollution exposure.

“Not only are the majority of rich countries failing to provide healthy environments for children within their borders, they are also contributing to the destruction of children’s environments in other parts of the world,” said Gunilla Olsson, Director of UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti.

Report Card 17’s Key Findings for children and youth in Canada:

World of the child

  • Canada ranks 8th in children’s exposure to ambient air pollution, but most children live in areas outside the safe level designated by WHO.
  • Canada ranks 11th in child lead poisoning.
  • Canada ranks 24th in child morbidity due to unsafe water.
  • Canada ranks 29th in lost years of health due to air pollution.
  • Canada ranks 29th in exposure to child pesticide pollution.

World around the child

  • Canada ranks 1st in overcrowded housing, however, it ranks 32nd in housing space for children.
  • Canada ranks 15th in access to urban green space for children.
  • Canada ranks 23rd in child road traffic casualties.

World at large

  • Canada ranks 2nd in children’s awareness of environmental conditions.
  • Canada ranks 8th in water stress.
  • Canada ranks 15th on government expenditure on environmental protection.
  • Canada ranks 32nd in electronic waste.
  • Canada ranks 36th in municipal waste.
  • Canada ranks 40th in resource consumption, requiring 5 earths to sustain its current resource consumption.
  • Canada ranks 41st in CO2 emissions.

UNICEF Canada is calling for all levels of government to protect and improve children’s environments:

  1. Strengthen environmental policies that limit waste and greenhouse gas emissions, reduce exposure to pollution, ensure universal clean drinking water and decent housing, and provide every child with safe mobility and access to quality green spaces in their communities.
  2. Improve environments for the most vulnerable children. Indigenous and racialized children, children and youth with disabilities, and those in the lowest income level tend to face greater exposure to environmental harm. This entrenches and amplifies existing disadvantages and inequities.
  3. Ensure that environmental policies are child-sensitive. Governments and policymakers should apply a distinct child and youth impact lens to environmental policies, giving them priority in all decisions.
  4. Improve the protection of children and youth afforded by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, ensuring their right to a healthy environment and requiring assessment of impacts on diverse young people.
  5. Review every sustainable development strategy, disaster risk reduction plan and disaster mitigation and emergency management strategy from a child impact and equity perspective.
  6. Involve children and youth. They will face mounting environmental problems for the longest time; but have the least influence on outcomes. Adult decision-makers at all levels, from parents to politicians, must listen to their perspectives and take them into account.

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For further information:

Laurence Bodjrenou
Senior Manager, Communications
[email protected]
514 288-5134 ext 8426 / 514-232-4510

Emily O’Connor
Communications Manager
[email protected]
416 482-6552 ext 8866 / 647-500-4230

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