Uh oh, you are using an old web browser that we no longer support. Some of this website's features may not work correctly because of this. Learn about updating to a more modern browser here.

Skip To Content

Why climate finance must work for children


Climate finance is a high-profile agenda item at COP27, where world leaders are now gathering. Up for discussion will be a new international goal for climate finance to replace the $100 billion pledge which represents only a small contribution to the true costs of climate action. The new goal, to be finalised in 2024, must be ambitious and accompanied by an internationally agreed understanding of what constitutes quality climate finance. Critically, it must include a comprehensive focus on child rights.

The climate emergency is eroding child rights. In 2022, Save the Children carried out our biggest-ever consultation with children to listen to their views and experiences of climate crisis and economic inequality. Children shared with us the devastating impacts of climate-related disasters on their rights to education, food, health, and protection, to name a few. They also spoke about the disproportionate impacts experienced by children who are economically marginalised and discriminated against, including girls, indigenous children, children with disabilities, refugee, migrant and displaced children. A 10-year-old girl from Lebanon told us, “The more natural disasters increased, the more violence and discrimination increased, and the poverty increased, which leads to child labour, dropping out of schools and engaging in illegal activities.”  You can read more about what children told us here, and in our new report, Generation Hope.

With the world far from limiting global warming to the critical threshold of 1.5°C, the situation will worsen in the years to come. Children are calling on world leaders to take urgent and ambitious action to tackle the combined climate and inequality crisis and protect their rights. A child in India told us, “It is not children’s responsibility to clean the mess created by their elders.



Ambitious and urgent climate action requires considerable financial resources. But both domestic and international climate finance have been woefully inadequate to date. As historical emitters, high-income countries have a moral responsibility to support lower and middle-income countries (LMICs) with their climate mitigation and adaptation goals. As signatories to the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child (UNCRC), rich countries also have obligations to support LMICs. A child in Nigeria told us, “Developed countries have more responsibility than others do.”

But high-income countries have failed to provide the promised $100 billion per year in international climate finance by 2020. This is not only slowing down climate action but also eroding international trust and solidarity needed to address the global crisis.

The story is particularly dire for adaptation finance, crucial for building the resilience of climate-vulnerable countries and their children to cope with climate impacts. Between 2016 and 2020, funding for adaptation averaged only 24% of total climate finance committed by rich countries.

The marginalisation of adaptation finance is bad news for children at the frontlines of the climate crisis. Our analysis shows that in eight lower-income countries where the risks for children from the climate crisis are the highest (all in sub-Saharan Africa), high-income countries provided only $2.31 per person per year in adaptation finance from 2016 to 2020.[i] This pales in comparison to the estimated $11.40 per person per year that the region needed for adaptation by 2020.

Adaptation costs in LMICs are rising and understood to be significantly higher than previously thought. Rich countries’ pledge at COP26 last year to double adaptation finance by 2025 to $40 billion per was welcome. But it is still far from what’s needed. They must do more to reach this goal sooner and go further, channelling at least 50% of public finance for climate action towards adaptation.    


Increases in climate finance must also be accompanied by assessments of climate change risks on diverse groups of children, with funds allocated to reduce risk and uphold children’s rights.

Investments in child-centred adaptation which place children’s rights, needs and views at the heart of climate action are smart economics. First, they are cost-effective. Second, by improving resilience, child-centred adaptation can offset the losses from degradation of health, education and protection that households and communities would incur in the future as a result of the climate crisis.

An essential but neglected component of child-centred adaptation is shock-responsive social protection, investments in which must be scaled up to ensure continued access to nutritious food, reduce poverty and prevent families from resorting to negative coping strategies to deal with poverty such as child marriage and labour. Finance is also needed to strengthen anticipatory action to prevent climate-induced shocks from precipitating full-blown crises and to improve the resilience of key services and systems such as education, healthcare, sanitation and food production and distribution, so that they continue in times of crisis.

Making child-centred adaptation a reality also requires ensuring children are empowered to engage in climate action.  Children are leading global activism on the climate emergency, pushing the issue up the global agenda. Yet their right to participate in decision making, and the rich insights they have to bring to the table, have not been recognised in climate policy and action discussions. A 16-year-old girl from Malawi told us, “As children, we are never invited in their meetings about climate change and we really do not know what they are discussing. At community level, we are also not engaged, we are considered as children and that is all.”  Participating in decision-making on matters that affect their lives and well-being is an intrinsic right of children under the UNCRC and it must be upheld.

Locally-led adaptation approaches can provide an effective platform for children’s meaningful participation in climate action. They empower local communities to put into action solutions that work for them. With their distinctive knowledge and unique perception of risks, children can identify measures that would effectively respond to their rights and specific needs in relation to the climate crisis.

But child-centred adaptation and locally-led approaches have not been historically prioritised in climate finance allocations. This must change.

Children are speaking up against the injustices of the climate emergency and demanding bold climate action to build a just and green future for them. A 10-year-old girl from Guatemala told us, “For my future, I dream of having our rights respected and to live a dignified life.” A new climate finance goal that is child-centred would go a long way to protect and uphold child rights. Discussions at COP27 must set the tone for a successful process in 2023 towards the definition of the new goal that delivers for children adequately, equitably, and effectively.

[i] Detailed methodology available in Save the Children’s report – Generation Hope: 2 billion reasons to end the climate and inequality crisis