Preserving the world for future generations: Children and young people's perspective on how to tackle climate change

Our research report gives insight into how children and young people perceive and understand climate change.
RCPCH &Us | The voice of children, young people and families - Preserving the world for future generations

About this report

The climate crisis is a child rights crisis that needs global urgent action.

Its prolonged impacts on the mental and physical health, as well as on the general welfare of children and young people (CYP) stem from shifts in the environment like wildfires, droughts, and heightened exposure to air pollutants. Almost all children (>99%) worldwide are already exposed to one or more climate and environmental risks to their health and millions do not have access to their determinants of health, including clean air, safe water, sanitation, affordable and nutritious food, and shelter. These are fundamental rights as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Our report, Preserving the world for future generations, offers a holistic view of how CYP - both in the UK and internationally - perceive and understand climate change.

Over the last two years, our engagement team has been on the road around the whole of the UK, talking to CYP about climate change and its impact on their physical and mental health. To support this work, we also conducted a literature review to capture the perceptions and priorities of children and young people globally. So, in total, the report summarises the voices and perspectives of almost 100,000 CYP from across the world.

From this research, we identified reoccurring themes. These were the most prominent:

  • Worries about the future
  • Governmental influence and young people’s perceptions on government action to combat climate change
  • Ideas from CYP to combat climate change
  • Importance of engaging and empowering CYP
  • Climate change and inequalities
  • Impacts of climate change
  • Climate change education and how education is embedded within schools
  • Barriers to improving climate change
  • Climate change and the rise of negative emotions associated with it

Alongside the detailed report, we have published an executive summary which breaks down the evidence behind each CYP recommendation. It aims to provide decision makers and paediatricians in the UK with an overview of why CYP care about this topic and the action CYP want them to take to lighten the burden of climate change felt by the younger generations.

Drawing of hands - left hand reads 'Preserving the world for future generations' - circle reads, 'Overheating, over exposure to UV rays, skin cancer' - right hand reads ' Renewable energy, reduce plastic waste, lowering carbon footprint, eating local healthy food, walking instead of traveling to friends'
A young person's illustration from one of our engagement events

A message from the RCPCH &Us Climate Changers

The RCPCH &Us Climate Changers are a group of 12 young people with an interest in climate change who meet regularly to turn ideas into action. Since 2020, this group of young people has embarked on several projects and actions to amplify the voice of CYP based in the UK in climate change discussions as well as help set priority areas for the College.

We are excited to share this report, which includes the thoughts and concerns of children and young people like us regarding climate change. It is amazing to see such a wide range of ideas from other young people. The amount of information we got from so many different children and young people was so inspiring. There were a lot of similarities across the themes but also many unique and different perspectives that we can learn from. This report not only highlights our concerns regarding climate change and the future but also key topics that everyone can use to start conversations.

One aspect of the report that stood out to us was how much we all care about the impact climate change is having on both our physical and mental health. We want to help find ways to address this with politicians, healthcare professionals, and other adults.

We want to thank all of the children and young people who took part in the RCPCH roadshows across the UK as well as the other children and young people who were involved in the external studies and activities. Your voices have made this report even more impactful, showcasing your enthusiasm and dedication of our generation in these discussions. 

We strongly believe in the importance of educating and informing ourselves about climate action. We want to learn and take meaningful action to contribute positively to our environment and future. This knowledge will empower us to make informed decisions and advocate for a sustainable future. 

We hope this report can be an inspiration for us all, and will help people to come together in order to end the climate crisis. Thank you.

RCPCH &Us Climate Changers