Collaborative team supports UNICEF in creation of child-specific Climate Risk Index

Leveraging existing work carried out by UNICEF to build a Climate Change Vulnerability Index , which uses past and current data to assess climate hazards and child wellbeing, this project aims to predict where children are going to be most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This novel approach will provide UNICEF’s global teams with the valuable information they need to target their climate change response and resilience investments to best serve the most vulnerable children of today and tomorrow.


The Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF is a unique partnership between UNICEF, The Scottish Government and the University of Edinburgh’s Data Driven Innovation programme, which seeks to enable improvement in outcomes for every child through innovative data science and responsible data practices. The Collaborative serves as the platform to bring together multi-sector teams with the appropriate data and expertise to answer challenge questions targeted at improving the lives of children. This multidisciplinary approach has bought together key academic expertise in the social context of child vulnerability, social statistics, biophysical processes and statistics, child welfare and child poverty to support this work.

“This exciting project was co-developed through our unique impact collaborations approach. Through a combination of design thinking principles and skills led collaboration, we provided a platform to share ideas and build a proposal that reflects the unique knowledge and expertise that each partner brought to the table.”

Fraser Macdonald, Head of Delivery & Innovation, Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF


The goal of this work is to produce a Risk Index that is specifically sensitive to the experience of children. The socioeconomic impacts of a changing climate affect children in a different way to adults, yet they are rarely considered independently. By combining geophysical data with information about young people’s socio-economic vulnerability, the team hopes to capture the degree to which children are uniquely vulnerable to climate-related hazards, and how ready their countries are to address the effects of climate change.

The project itself is spilt into two phases, assessing child climate risk in both 2020 and 2050. In this first phase, the team has focused on understanding the relationship between geophysical issues and the social effects they can have on children. These make up the Child Climate Risk Index 2020, providing a snapshot of the current risks of climate change to children today.

The second phase of the project involves using a variety of data variables, such as temperature, flood, disease prevalence and drought in combination with a child relevant vulnerability index that considers child health, food security and education to project ‘child climate risk’ scenarios forward to 2050. These projections will be a powerful advocacy tool, helping organisations across the globe to better understand the scale and scope of children’s vulnerabilities to climate change, and by extension, how to tackle them.

The climate crisis is also a child’s rights crisis. A key component of this project involved reviewing the literature on the challenges of climate change to children. Above all, this highlighted the importance of listening to children and upholding their rights to participate in debates on climate change.

“We are delighted to showcase the services of the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF on such a valuable and important piece of work.  Knowing that this tool will help UNICEF to highlight the plight of children across the globe, and at such a key juncture as COP26, drives the enthusiasm and rigour of this collaborative team.”

Alex Hutchison, Director, Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF


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