Top global health bodies have laid out a broad range of risks they say is putting young people’s future under threat.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have released a report declaring the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices that push fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at children.

The report includes a new global index of 180 countries comparing performance on child survival and well-being, based on health, education, nutrition and sustainability, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, and equity or income gaps.

While Australia is ranked 20th for its performance on child survival, the nation performed poorly on creating an environment fit for the future of its children – with CO2 emissions projected to be 524 per cent above its 2030 target, putting it within the bottom 10 countries for emissions.

The index shows that children in Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being, while children in Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger and Mali face the worst odds.

However, when authors took per capita CO2 emissions into account, the top countries trail behind: Norway ranked 156, the Republic of Korea 166, and the Netherlands 160.

Each of the three emits 210 per cent more CO2 per capita than their 2030 target. The United States of America (USA), Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the ten worst emitters.

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 per cent in the USA over two years, reaching more than 24 million young people.

To protect children, the independent Commission authors call for a new global movement driven by and for children. Specific recommendations include:

  • Stop CO2 emissions with the utmost urgency
  • Place children and adolescents at the centre of efforts to achieve sustainable development
  • New policies and investment in all sectors to work towards child health and rights
  • Incorporate children’s voices into policy decisions
  • Tighten national regulation of harmful commercial marketing, supported by a new Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child