Are national climate commitments enough to protect our health?
The GCHA Healthy NDCs Scorecard assesses the extent to which governments’ national climate commitments recognise and respond to the abundant linkages with health. Ensuring the integration of health into climate policy protects populations, maximises economic benefits, and builds public backing for ambitious climate policies which are so urgently needed. Failure to include health in NDCs is a missed opportunity for people, the public purse, and political support.
NDCs were assessed based on their attention to five health categories: health impacts, health in adaptation measures, health co-benefits, economics and finance, and bonus points available for overall prominence and integration of health. Three points were available for each category, with a total possible ‘health score’ of 15.
In addition, where available, the scorecard also includes information on governments’ overall climate ambition, reflecting the most recent analysis of Climate Action Tracker. These ratings take into account domestic targets, policies and action, fair share of emissions reductions, climate mitigation finance, and land use and forestry. Overall climate ambition is the factor which will have the greatest ultimate bearing on health.
The content of NDCs provides an overall snapshot of governments’ priorities relating to climate change, and this analysis serves as a barometer for the extent to which the intrinsic links between health and climate change are recognised and being addressed.
The ‘health score’ calculated by GCHA is based solely on analysis of each country’s NDC, and not other wider policies. It is important to note that rather than including adaptation measures in their NDCs, many more economically developed countries have separate adaptation strategies, and were hence awarded a lower score for adaptation than would otherwise be the case. Nevertheless, it is notable that despite the very limited resources of many nations in the Global South, low and middle income countries secured the top scores. These countries have contributed least to the emissions responsible for climate change, and are already experiencing the most severe health impacts.
Countries responsible for half of global emissions have yet to publicly update their national climate commitments ahead of COP26. There is therefore a massive opportunity for governments to build in ambitious emissions reductions targets, reap the health benefits of well-considered climate action, and bolster their economies.
For countries which have already submitted an NDC, placing health at the centre of policies implemented across the energy, food and agriculture and transport sectors to achieve specified emissions reductions will yield both health and economic returns thanks to improved air quality, healthy diets and physical activity.
By their nature, NDCs primarily refer to future plans and targets. While commitment is a prerequisite for ambitious action, health will only benefit if these commitments are delivered.
GCHA is very grateful to the following individuals for their work and guidance to make the Scorecard initiative possible: Iris Martine Blom, Omnia El Omrani, Laura Jung, Juliette Mattijsen, Blanca Paniello Castillo, Kim Robin van Daalen, and Arthur Wyns. If you have any questions about this work, please contact Jess Beagley at email@example.com.
“Costa Rica recognizes that climate change will impact people’s health and that we need to take urgent action. Fortunately, we have the tools to address this issue. The investments needed to tackle climate change will improve air quality, take pressure off our healthcare systems, and improve our well-being. The recognition of Costa Rica’s climate policies in this ranking shows once again that the country is a world leader in the fight against climate change and that these actions are within reach of countries of all sizes.”
Andrea Meza, Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica.