“When the weather forecast predicts a storm or flood, the school warns its students then sends a message to parents, the school announces its closure,” explains Kim, a 16-year-old Vietnamese teenager. It’s a story that sounds far away, more precisely 11,000 kilometers from Spain, a distance that separates the capitals of the two countries. But we also hear them in Spanish. “I have friends in Murcia, for example, who have had their classes canceled because of the extreme heat and that ends up impacting our education in one way or another,” explains Lucía, also a senior 16 years old.

This year, the Canary Islands government suspended educational activities for two days due to the high temperatures that the archipelago experienced in mid-December. Last year, summer vacations took place earlier for students from other autonomous communities. “A billion boys and girls live in countries where they are extremely exposed to the effects of climate change,” says Sílvia Casanovas, head of local policies and participation at Unicef ​​Spain. “But a girl from Chad is very different from my daughters who stay at home on a day of extreme heat and nothing happens,” says Vicente Raimundo, director of international cooperation and humanitarian action at Save the Children Spain.

Going to school for these young people, especially girls, is not only training and education, it is also a refuge. “A lot of girls come running to school to escape their parents because they want to marry them,” Mary Grace Kakyo, a teacher in a refugee camp in Uganda, told the newspaper a few months ago.

Según data from Save the Children collected in the World News about childhood in 2023, back of each of three marriages for children of children who live in the regions with a high climate, such as Sudán del Sur, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Mali, Malaysia , among others.

In Ethiopia, East Africa alone, where the climate crisis is represented by drought and lack of food, child marriage rates increased by 119% in 2022 compared to 2021. In Bangladesh, the impact of heatwaves doubles the chances of girls aged 11 to 20 being married. 14 will marry the following year. “It changes their lives enormously, in addition to putting them in danger,” warns Raimundo.

These girls, who live in countries with the highest rates of child marriage and climate risks, are in turn facing the worst of the current food crisis. “As a young farmer, I know what it’s like to see our crops fail. I had to miss classes and sometimes I can’t eat because our produce spoils due to bad weather,” warns Reyna, a 16-year-old Filipina.

Reyna’s case is not an isolated one, as they are the first to leave the classrooms if the family does not have enough money to pay school fees. “There is a 2.5% greater chance that a girl will leave school with a boy,” reports Carolina Bonache, climate change expert at Plan International Spain.

Due to gender norms and poverty, girls are forced to take on domestic responsibilities and seek work outside the home. “They are responsible for providing natural resources. Because of climate change, these are rarer and more distant,” explains Bonache. “The path to fetch water or firewood is longer and they are more vulnerable,” he adds.

Forgotten in the COPs

Despite being one of the groups most affected by the climate crisis, financial commitments to combat climate change are not benefiting children. According to the report by the Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI) coalition, of which Plan International is a part, “We have not succeeded: closing the climate change financing gap for children.” Only 2.4% of major global climate funds can be classified as activities responding to and supporting children.

This funding is essential if we are to achieve the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C and thus protect communities from the impacts of climate change, but global commitments on climate finance remain unmet and, unfortunately, are insufficient. “We have to listen to boys and girls and teach them to take care of and protect the environment and for that, we have to see adults doing what they want us to learn because we learn by seeing”, underlines a young 12 year old Burundian. Today in Dubai, the youngest are speaking up to make themselves heard in the rooms where decisions are made.