Health is finally on the climate agenda, but there is still much to be done

As world leaders gather in Dubai for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), health is finally on the agenda. Climate change agenda With celebration on December 3 of the first “Health day“At the annual UN climate summit.

Including health in climate change discussions has never been more important. Extreme weather conditions Threaten human health In different ways, this intersection is getting worse as the likelihood of extreme weather events increases with climate change.

Two of us (Catherine and Arthur) attended the health day. It represents a pivotal moment for climate and health on the global stage, but there is still much work to be done.

How climate change affects our health

The scalpel It recently published its latest report About the health effects of climate change, the news is not good.

The report reaffirms that significant deaths and injuries caused by climate change are already occurring around the world. For example, heat-related deaths among people over 65 years old increased by 85% in the period 2013-2022 compared to the period 1991-2000.

The effects of climate change on health are very diverse. In addition to the damage caused by extreme heat, it can cause disasters such as drought, floods and forest fires Spread of infectious diseasesExposure to wildfire smoke, food insecurity and more.

Such events also increase Mental illness Such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Minorities and at-risk groups suffer Worst health effectswhich – Widening existing social and health disparities.

A decisive moment

This year, promising progress has been made in addressing the health impact of climate change. in May, The World Health Assembly focused for the first time on health and climate changeIt included a roundtable on the role of the health community in climate action and the need for specific financing mechanisms.

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In August, G20 health ministers Make climate and health a priority issue They agreed on high-level first principles for action on health and climate. This includes creating sustainable, low-carbon healthcare systems that provide high-quality healthcare, and decarbonising healthcare supply chains.

Now, this inaugural Health Day at the COP sought to increase visibility on the health impacts of climate change, and Mobilizing funds for effective action So that countries can prepare and respond.

Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund, speaks at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28). The COP brings together key decision-makers to discuss climate change.
Rafiq Maqbool/AP/AP

The event focused on key topics such as the pathways through which climate affects health, the health benefits of reducing emissions, as well as the needs, barriers and best practices for strengthening climate-resilient health systems.

A ministerial roundtable concluded today, where many of the 50 health ministers in attendance had two minutes to talk about why and how they are acting on health and climate change.

For example, the representative of Vanuatu noted that the country faces an uncertain future due to climate change, and stressed his hope that this Health Day would allow for continued support for countries most at risk.

Japan noted the importance of promoting universal health coverage as a key means of addressing the health impacts of climate change.


It should be noted that at this COP, more than 120 countries signed the Convention UAE Declaration on Climate and Health from COP 28. The declaration focuses on gathering support, stimulating action and mobilizing funds to improve the resilience of health systems.

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In addition, the United Arab Emirates announced its commitment to “total” financing for 1 billion dollars To promote the implementation of health-focused climate activities. This is facilitated by organizations such as the Green Climate Fund, the Asian Development Bank, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

However, there are few details available on whether these funds will be additional to existing commitments, considered a loan or grant, or will be diverted from other health priorities.

Protecting our planet, our people and our future

As the Director-General of the World Health Organization said yesterday Tedros Adhanom GhebreyesusAfter COP27 concluded without serious discussion of health, attention to this issue at COP28 was overdue.

There is no doubt that health is the most urgent reason to take action against climate change […]. For too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions.

But although Health Day and other recent developments are encouraging, there is still much more to be done to meaningfully protect the health of communities around the world.

In particular, fast Phasing out fossil fuels It is necessary to mitigate the effects of climate change on health. The aforementioned global declaration does not establish any plan in this regard or address the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels.

The healthcare sector can and should contribute to this effort because it is responsible for 4.4% of global carbon emissions.

Health benefits of climate action Costs far exceed. Without ambitious cross-sector action that takes health issues into account, human health and well-being will continue to suffer. This is the first health day at the COP, but it should not be the last.

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