COP28 calls attention to health-climate link

2023-12-07 08:34:40China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Over 120 nations back declaration that puts people at center of green actions

More than 120 countries have brought health to the front and center of climate action with the launch of the "COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health", bolstering the development of climate-resilient, sustainable, and equitable health systems.

COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said the climate challenge was "increasingly becoming a health challenge" that could no longer be divided, as he inaugurated the summit's Health Day on Sunday with the first climate and health ministerial meeting at a Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

He noted that beyond extreme heat, storms and floods, climate impacts were "affecting food security, water security and clean air", and compelled the private sectors to "find their way to help finance climate health interventions".

Reem Al Hashimy, UAE's minister of state for international cooperation, said the declaration, which is supported by 123 countries and encourages the sharing of best practices, scaling up of finance and curbing of emissions, among other things, "represents a powerful call to action and a new level of ambition" to prioritize human health in the fight against climate change.

"What we decide here in Dubai, on the global stocktake, the accelerated transition away from fossil fuels, and every other item, will mean a huge difference in mortality and in human health as we aim to close gaps in the Paris Agreement by 2030," said Al Hashimy.

"Because health is the personal experience of climate change. It is the human face of climate change and therefore it is our shared duty to present and future generations protecting our climate as the foundation upon which we all depend for our health and our well-being," she added.

In his speech, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said the declaration, which builds on the momentum from past COPs, was "a platform to drive political commitments and to serve as a clear call to action on climate and health".

Delivering on the Paris Agreement would help to protect both health and the planet, said the WHO chief, as he noted that "the same air pollution that causes climate change is associated with 7 million deaths a year".

"Our addiction to oil, gas and coal is not just an act of environmental vandalism. From the health perspective, it's an act of health sabotage. At the same time, communities around the world need support to prepare for and adapt to the devastating harms of climate change," Tedros said.

"We urgently need to scale up the financing and implementation of adaptation measures, especially for communities affected by extreme weather sea-level rise and other vulnerable populations with few resources," he added.

Tedros said the health sector "has both a responsibility and important role as a partner for climate action" and that the WHO and The Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health are supporting countries to transition to low-carbon resilient health systems.

At the event, Al Hashimy announced an aggregated initial tranche of finance, amounting to $1 billion, that could "back up our political commitment and scale up our solutions". The funding was enabled by a series of new financing commitments from entities, including the Green Climate Fund, the Asian Development Bank, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.

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