At COP28, the global health community demands immediate action on climate change and health

climate change

As COP28 approaches, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the global health community are amplifying their voices, emphasizing the crucial intersection of climate change and health in negotiations. The imperative is to ensure that the impact of climate change on human health takes center stage in global discussions, compelling negotiators to recognize their responsibility for the well-being of populations worldwide.

“Prioritizing health is not just a choice; it is the foundation of resilient societies,” emphasized Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. Leaders are urged to deliver strong health outcomes in Dubai, aligning with the expectations of their peoples and the urgent needs of their economies. The call is to change the conversation and demonstrate the substantial benefits of bold climate action on health and well-being.

climate change

Recent extreme weather events worldwide provide a stark preview of the challenges in a rapidly heating world. The IPCC report underscores that about 3.5 billion people, nearly half of humanity, live in areas highly vulnerable to climate change. WHO’s figures reveal a 70% rise in heat-related deaths among those aged over 65 globally in two decades. Only a dedicated effort to limit warming to 1.5 °C can prevent a future worse than the current scenario.

Frequent and severe extreme weather events, including droughts, floods, and heatwaves, are projected to strain healthcare infrastructure. Last year’s floods in Pakistan displaced 8 million people and impacted 33 million overall. World Bank forecasts indicate that without bold and immediate action, climate change could displace approximately 216 million people by 2050.

The climate crisis poses a threat to lives and livelihoods, straining global food systems and compromising water sources. Simultaneously, climate change catalyzes a surge in infectious diseases like dengue and cholera, endangering millions. The call is for decisive and collaborative action to mitigate the health impacts of the climate crisis and build a sustainable future.

Addressing the unprecedented challenge to health systems worldwide, it is imperative to strengthen them to be resilient, low carbon, and sustainable. Failure to act swiftly leaves health systems vulnerable to the overwhelming impacts of climate change. Climate change is not a distant threat; it is a present danger affecting health on multiple fronts, contributing to the spread of infectious diseases and vector-borne illnesses.

Adapting health systems requires upgrading key interventions such as vector control, epidemiological surveillance, and ensuring access to safe water and sanitation. Additionally, crucial training for health staff is emphasized, aligning health systems with WHO’s operational framework for building climate-resilient and low carbon health systems.

To reduce the negative impact on health, the health community stresses the importance of reducing and stopping emissions. WHO reports that 7 million premature deaths annually are attributed to air pollution. Urgent mitigation measures, including transitioning to clean energy sources, are deemed necessary to protect human health and create sustainable outcomes.

Recognizing the role health systems play in contributing to emissions, the health community advocates for greening the health sector. This involves decarbonizing health systems, digitalizing medicine, and implementing sustainable practices in hospitals and health-care facilities to significantly reduce the 5% global emissions attributed to the health sector.

Over 1 billion people worldwide are served by health-care facilities with unreliable or no electricity. For low-income countries lacking access to electricity, the health community calls for an acceleration of access to clean energy. WHO is collaborating with partners to expedite the electrification of health-care facilities through renewable energies, harmonizing medical supplies, and leading transformative change towards cleaner energy sources, better services, and reduced reliance on diesel and gas.

Understanding the disparities in health systems’ finances

Recognizing the financial deficit in health systems, the medical community demands more funding from outside sources. The call is to withdraw from and stop supporting fossil fuels, as well as to raise new money to help health systems adapt to climate change.

By utilising the combined influence of WHO Member States and stakeholders, the WHO-led Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH) is committed to achieving the objectives set forth at COP26 and advancing climate-resilient health systems. ATACH also prioritises determining funding requirements.

Addressing the obvious imbalance in financial assistance is vital, as the health sector faces unprecedented pressures. As of right now, the industry only gets 0.5 percent of global climate funding. In order to meet the numerous obstacles that lie ahead, such as the continuous global health crisis, the constantly changing field of medical research, and technological breakthroughs, a significant increase in funding is not only necessary but also warranted. By increasing funding, we can improve the industry’s capacity for innovation, adaptation, and the delivery of high-quality care, assuring a robust healthcare system that is ready to face both present-day difficulties and future unknowns.

WHO’s urgent request for COP28 climate and health action

The health community urges swift action as the globe comes together for COP28. We implore negotiators to acknowledge that addressing climate change is a health issue, and that ignoring this fact would have serious repercussions for both present and future generations’ well-being.

The WHO call to action unites the medical community in its desire for a commitment to prioritise health, reduce emissions, and develop resilient health systems. The goal of the inaugural Health Day is to incorporate health into the climate change agenda and raise awareness of the relationship between health and climate change on a global scale.

Ministerial session and Health Day

The goal of the inaugural Health Day is to incorporate health into the climate change agenda and raise awareness of the relationship between health and climate change on a global scale. A record number of health ministers are expected to attend COP28 for the first time. The attendance of a sizable contingent of health ministers highlights our determination to make health a top priority in the context of climate talks and to build a more sustainable and healthy future. By bringing together world leaders to develop sustainable solutions, the Ministerial session seeks to intensify the need for action. The important interaction between health and climate change will be the main topic of discussion at this historic meeting.

A commitment to a healthier planet, where the health justifications for taking action on climate change are not only acknowledged but also produce real outcomes, will be the legacy of COP 28.

Share this post:

Leave a Comment