Earth Day 2024: Addressing the Impacts of Environmental and Climate Challenges on Young Children

An annual event held on April 22, Earth Day is a time to celebrate our planet and bring awareness to the various environmental problems we are facing around the world. And, as it takes place during the Month of the Young Child, it is also the perfect opportunity to highlight the impact environmental degradation has on young children across the globe.

That’s why, for Earth Day 2024, we’re spotlighting one of our partners, the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC). Supported through our Family Philanthropy team’s Global Education Fund, ARNEC is a network that connects professionals and organizations working in the field of early childhood development in more than 40 countries across the Asia-Pacific region. As part of its work, ARNEC is raising awareness about the direct link between early childhood development and climate change. The urgent need for connecting discussions around climate action with early childhood can be summarized by the 2021 Climate Issue of the Early Childhood Matters journal:

“When extreme weather forces young children to migrate, they face malnutrition, interrupted education and many other threats, during a key period in their physical and emotional growth. It’s also very reasonable to expect that a baby born today will grow up to experience major climate chaos and environmental degradation — worse than any faced by current adults. Despite all this, discussions about climate change seldom refer to the fate of young children.”

ARNEC and its partners are leading a movement calling for action at the national, regional, and global levels to reduce global warming, lessen the impacts of climate change, and secure a healthy planet for young children. This initiative (read ARNEC’s Framework for Action here) includes demanding collective action to address the vulnerability of young children who face weather-driven food and water scarcity, and other health threats attributable to climate change.

As ARNEC continues to explore similar opportunities with other regional partners, it recognizes diverse contexts and entry points for behavioral and system-level change, and its message is clear:

  • “The climate crisis is a child rights crisis — and young children are especially vulnerable to it.”
  • “Policies and programs need to respond to the interlinkages of environmental health, climate change, and early childhood development” to promote healthy, sustainable environments for young children and the adaptive capacity of communities.
  • “We all have the obligation to protect the environment for the world’s young children. To nurture them in a safe and healthy environment and to give a fair chance to enjoy life’s opportunities is our utmost commitment and responsibility.”

Earth Day is a time to reflect on the beauty of our planet, but also to raise awareness around those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate: children. It’s clear that the ongoing climate crisis is having, and will continue to have, an impact on the lives of young children globally. This is why we are proud to be supporting partners, like ARNEC, who seek to address the urgent, intersectional needs of children amid the impacts of climate change.