A United Nations-backed report released on Wednesday has ranked India 77th on a sustainability index that takes into account per capita carbon emissions and another report on child survival has ranked the country 131 out of 180 countries.
The report was released by a commission of over 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world and was commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Lancet medical journal.
The report, ‘A Future for the World’s Children’, assesses the threat to the health and future of every child and adolescent from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol, and tobacco at children.
In the report assessing the capacity of 180 countries to ensure that their youngsters can survive and thrive, India ranks 77th on the Sustainability Index much above the United States which is ranked 173, and 131 on the Flourishing Index.
Flourishing is the geometric mean of Surviving and Thriving. For Surviving, the authors selected maternal survival, survival in children younger than 5 years old, suicide, access to maternal and child health services, basic hygiene and sanitation, and lack of extreme poverty. For Thriving, the domains were educational achievement, growth and nutrition, reproductive freedom, and protection from violence.
Under the Sustainability Index, the authors noted that promoting today’s national conditions for children to survive and thrive must not come at the cost of eroding future global conditions for children’s ability to flourish. The Sustainability Index ranks countries on excess carbon emissions compared with the 2030 target.
When we protect the environment, we protect children’s rights.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) February 19, 2020
This provides a convenient and available proxy for a country’s contribution to sustainability in the future. The report noted that under realistic assumptions about possible trajectories towards sustainable greenhouse gas emissions, models predict that global carbon emissions need to be reduced from 39·7 giga tonnes to 22·8 gigatonnes per year by 2030 to maintain even a 66 percent chance of keeping global warming below 1·5°C.
It said that the world’s survival depended on children being able to flourish, but no country is doing enough to give them a sustainable future.
“No country in the world is currently providing the conditions we need to support every child to grow up and have a healthy future,” said Anthony Costello, Professor of Global Health and Sustainability at University College London, one of the lead authors of the report.
“Especially, they’re under immediate threat from climate change and from commercial marketing, which has grown hugely in the last decade,” said Costello – former WHO Director of Mother, Child, and Adolescent health.
No single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) February 18, 2020
Norway leads the table for survival, health, education and nutrition rates – followed by South Korea and the Netherlands. The central African Republic, Chad, and Somalia come at the bottom.
However, when taking into account per capita CO2 emissions, these top countries trail behind, with Norway 156th, the Republic of Korea 166th and the Netherlands 160th.
Each of the three emits 210 percent more CO2 per capita than their 2030 target, the data shows, while the US, Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the 10 worst emitters. The lowest emitters are Burundi, Chad, and Somalia.
According to the report, the only countries on track to beat CO2 emission per capita targets by 2030, while also performing fairly, within the top 70, on child flourishing measures are Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay, and Vietnam.
“More than 2 billion people live in countries where development is hampered by humanitarian crises, conflicts, and natural disasters, problems increasingly linked with climate change,” said Minister Awa Coll-Seck from Senegal, Co-Chair of the commission.
The report also highlights the distinct threat posed to children from harmful marketing. Evidence suggests that children in some countries see as many as 30,000 advertisements on television alone in a single year, while youth exposure to vaping (e-cigarettes) advertisements increased by more than 250 percent in the US over two years, reaching more than 24 million young people.
Studies in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and the US – among many others – have shown that self-regulation has not hampered commercial ability to advertise to children.
Children’s exposure to commercial marketing of junk food and sugary beverages is associated with the purchase of unhealthy foods and overweight and obesity, linking predatory marketing to the alarming rise in childhood obesity, it said.
Children are surrounded – and often targeted – by a daily barrage of advertising for alcohol, junk food, tobacco and other harmful products that put their health in danger.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) February 19, 2020
The number of obese children and adolescents increased from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016, an 11-fold increase, with dire individual and societal costs, the report said. To protect children, the authors call for a new global movement driven by and for children.
The report also made specific recommendations which include stopping CO2 emissions with the utmost urgency, to ensure children have a future on this planet; placing children and adolescents at the center of global efforts to achieve sustainable development, the report said.
New policies and investment in all sectors to work towards child health and rights; incorporating children’s voices into policy decisions and tightening national regulation of harmful commercial marketing, supported by a new Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.