Climate activists have high hopes that at this week’s Leaders Summit on Climate, hosted by US President Joe Biden with forty other heads of state, climate change will be framed as a health issue that is exacerbating the risk of future pandemics, as well as causing seven million deaths a year right now as a result of air pollution and reducing already fragile crop yields critical to nutrition and food security.
“At the Leaders’ Climate Summit, I think we’ll see the US framing their climate commitments at least in part in terms of health,” said the head of Global Climate and Health Alliance Jenny Miller, in an interview with Health Policy Watch. “The US Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy is very knowledgeable about the health impacts of climate change and the health benefits of climate solutions.”
“While I do think that health may come up during the Summit, it’s not actually on the official agenda,” she said, adding. “If you’re talking about climate change and you’re not talking about the impact on people, you’re missing the boat.”
“At the Summit, I’m concerned that with a more narrow focus on economies, businesses, and on new technologies, rather than on making sure the solutions we pursue really deliver benefits for people, we won’t actually get those health benefits we could see,” she said. She added that a stronger representation of health ministers in future climate conferences, such as the UN COP 26, due to be hosted by the United Kingdom in Glasgow at the end of 2021, could help position climate change as an opportunity to improve health.