Climate change working group - about our international workstream

Our overall aim is to effectively use our collective voice and expertise as paediatricians to influence the international climate change agenda, focusing in particular on the health impacts faced by children and young people now and in the future. We outline the background, aims and actions of this workstream of our climate change working group focused on international influence.


The world has already warmed by more than 1.2 degrees centigrade compared with pre-industrial levels, impacting every aspect of life, every region of the world, and all income groups. The World Health Organisation estimated that 99% of the disease burden from climate change was being borne by lower-income countries and 88% of this burden was in children aged less than five years.

While current avoidable environmental risks cause one-quarter of all diseases and deaths globally each year, there could be an additional 77 000–131 000 deaths among children aged less than five years of age by 2030 due to climate change if strategies to reduce and adapt to climate change are not put in place. Millions of children in the UK and globally are deprived of their fundamental rights of access to their determinants of health, including clean air, safe water, and sanitation.

The world's population, including 2.35 billion children aged < 18, is currently exposed to multiple overlapping environmental risks which will be amplified by climate change:

  • 90%, including 2 billion children, are exposed to poor air quality. For example, in 2016, 86% of UK cities exceeded the recommended limits for particulate matter 
  • 29% do not use safely managed drinking water 
  • 55% do not use safely managed sanitation services 
  • 40% do not have basic handwashing at home 
  • 41% live in houses that depend on polluting fuels for lighting, cooking and heating and are exposed to household air pollution 

Additional environmental risks reported by the United Nations Children Fund include:

  • 920 million children are exposed to water scarcity
  • 820 million children are highly exposed to heatwaves
  • 600 million children are exposed to vector-borne diseases
  • 400 million children are exposed to cyclones
  • 330 million children are exposed to river flooding and 240 million to coastal flooding

More information on these facts is available in our position statement.

Our aim and areas of focus

Our overall aim is to effectively use our collective voice and expertise as paediatricians to influence the international climate change agenda, focusing in particular on the health impacts faced by children and young people now and in the future.

Our areas of focus are as follows:

  1. Reviewing the available research on the impacts of climate change on global child health and illness
  2. Prioritising advocacy on policy recommendations according to those that will most impact child health globally, maximising our reach and impact by working in collaboration with other organisations
  3. Considering the education resources and support we can provide to support paediatric colleagues working internationally 
  4. Working to advance the narrative that the climate crisis is a child rights crisis, amplifying children and young people’s voices in the UK and internationally

Our actions for 2021/22

We have committed to the following activity in our first year:

  • Develop and publish an evidence-based position statement to influence COP26 
  • Seek opportunities to attend key networking events to share our ideas and key messages with international colleagues and key stakeholders we want to influence
  • Contribute to the production of educational materials and resources on this website, including podcasts, webinars and videos, focusing on resources of international use and interest
  • Work with the Research workstream to ensure the latest international research regarding climate change and child health is presented annually at RCPCH Conferences 
  • Identify and connect with other key organisations working internationally in climate change and child health to discuss and agree common goals and statements to take forwards, including scoping and supporting the formation of an international paediatric alliance on climate change and child health
  • Analyse the impact of UK policies on climate change on the health of children and young people in lower-income-countries. Literature review of the adaptations being taken by health professionals to adapt to climate change and consider a CHIFA survey to find out what paediatricians are doing/ask colleagues in RCPCH Global child health to survey colleagues in partner countries
  • Reach out to children and young people organisations working on international climate advocacy and ask what we can do to support their work, including sharing the views of RCPCH &Us internationally

Looking ahead to 2023/24

We hope to go on to do the following in our second and third years: 

  • Write up and publish our research findings in an academic publication to promote and support future research 
  • Consider what we can do specifically to support paediatric colleagues in the 10 most-affected countries with the highest global climate risk index-CRI. For example, in 2019 this was Mozambique, Zimbabwe, The Bahamas, Japan, Malawi, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, India, South Sudan, Niger, and Bolivia
  • Work with RCPCH and Us and other international groups to gather and share the views of children and young people on specific aspects of climate change internationally


  • Bhutta, Z. A., Aimone, A. & Akhtar, S., 2019. Climate change and global child health: what can paediatricians do?. Arch Dis Child, Volume 104
  • ISSOP, 2021. Declaration Responding to the Impact of the Climate Crisis on Children and Youth The Role of Child Health Professionals and Organizations. [Online] Available at: URL
  • Patz J. A., Gibbs, H. K., Foley, . J. A. & Rogers, J. V., 2007. Climate Change and Global Health: Quantifying a Growing Ethical Crisis Original Contribution. EcoHealth Journal Consortium