Global Climate and Health Event to Put Health and Equity at Center of Ambitious Climate Action

November 9th event – Race to Zero Dialogue on Climate & Health – to put health and equity at center of ambitious climate action; COVID-19 a wake up call for greater threats, such as climate change, says Dr Tedros, WHO Director General

Global, 5th November 2020:- Political leaders, medical professionals, civil society leaders and experts on climate and health are calling for COVID-19 responses that integrate health, the economy, biodiversity and climate change, ahead of a global virtual gathering on November 9 aimed at putting health and equity at the center of ambitious climate action.

The Race to Zero Dialogue on Climate & Health will bring together local, national and global leaders, health and climate experts, scientists and civil society to explore how a healthy, equitable recovery from COVID-19 can drive rapid decarbonization of the world economy, and will herald the launch of a series of ambitious initiatives to transform energy, transportation, health systems and finance to deliver a healthy, sustainable, and climate stable future. The Race To Zero Dialogue on Climate & Health marks day one of the Race To Zero November Dialogues, a series of cross-cutting events running from 9-19 November, featuring a focus topic over each 24 hour period.

Register for the Race to Zero Climate and Health Dialogue here

The full schedule of events, initiatives to be presented on November 9th, and key messages on climate and health can be viewed in this briefing.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has jarred the world’s health systems, societies and economies. In many ways, this is a wake up call for potentially even greater threats, especially those posed by climate change”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), who will speak at the keynote opening event. “The leaders of island nations and other vulnerable countries have been very clear: the decisions we make this year will determine whether their children will still have a place they can call home. To win this race, we need everyone on board. And the health community has a key role to play.”

Among the speakers for the event’s Climate & Health Keynote Opening are Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Hon. Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and Chair of Climate Vulnerable Forum, Sergio Costa, Italy’s Minister of the Environment, Teresa Ribera, Minister for the Ecological Transition, Spain, Francesco La Camera, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Dr Richard Smith, UK Alliance on Health and Climate Change, Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at WHO and Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive Officer, NHS England. For a full speaker list for all events.

The full schedule of events, initiatives to be presented on November 9th, and key messages on climate and health can be viewed in this briefing.

Several health initiatives will be announced or showcased during the day, including – but not limited to – a detailed roadmap from NHS England on how it plans to become the first net-zero national health system; a new Pathfinder Initiative to map healthy climate solutions; a preview to the Lancet Countdown annual report on health & climate change; and new WHO guidance on mainstreaming biodiversity to support healthier and more sustainable diets. Also highlighted will be the Health Care Climate Challenge, a commitment by hospitals and health centers to transition to 100 percent renewable electricity and become climate resilient. Hospitals and healthcare systems are on the front line of climate change impacts, further compounded by a wide range of health and developmental challenges. A WHO Special Initiative will showcase how Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are tackling the dual threat of climate and health impacts, setting an example for the rest of the world.

The Pathfinder Initiative, which launches during the Race to Zero Climate and Health Dialogue, also aims to support rapid progress towards a healthy, zero-carbon society. In response to the need for urgent and decisive action to keep within the 1.5 – 2°C target of the Paris Agreement, the Pathfinder Initiative aims to increase motivation and capacity by showing how the implementation of well-designed policies and technologies can yield multiple benefits for people and planet. Funded by the Wellcome Trust and with support from the Oak Foundation, the initiative will be led by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine with scientific oversight from the Lancet Pathfinder Commission.

“While climate financing is reaching new highs, it is still significantly lower than what is needed. New mechanisms and sources of climate finance are urgently required to redress this shortfall. This event will discuss how the current state of climate finance can be strengthened to support transformational impact and increase resilience for all in the race to zero,”, said Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of Glasgow Caledonian University’s Centre for Climate Justice, who will lead the Financing a Zero-Carbon and Healthy Future session.

“We have this moment of the COVID recovery where economies and people have been shaken out of their normal patterns. We should use this moment to make significant, transformational changes and turn the tide of the multiple crises of biodiversity loss, climate change, poverty, food and water security”, said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, who will speak during the Race for nature and health session. “Biodiversity can also provide many of the solutions needed to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change. A recovery that is zero-carbon, and that protects or restores biodiversity, will bring people closer to a healthy and resilient recovery.”

“As we kick off the Race to Zero November dialogues, these talks on climate and health come at a turning point in history”, said Frank Bainamarama, Prime Minister of Fiji who will speak during the opening session. “We are faced with dual enemies of almost unthinkable cost and consequence: climate change and contagion. So on this day I implore the world’s leaders to direct their attention squarely on the race that will have the most lasting consequences of all: the race to net-zero emissions.”

“COVID-19 is our wake-up call. We’ve been offered a glimpse into the not-so-distant future, one where the compromised health of humanity and our planet alike make every day a fight for survival. But unlike the pandemic, we see this life-threatening catastrophe coming and we have the chance to act now before it’s too late”, continued Bainamarama.

“The impacts of climate change are being faced today and people all over the world are being affected both in terms of their livelihood and health”, said Ian Hamilton, Executive Director of Lancet Countdown, who will speak at the keynote opening session. “Climate change affects everyone and those who are most vulnerable bear the greatest burden. The recovery from COVID-19 must seek to reframe our social contract by fighting to secure a sustainable and resilient future that is synergistic to fighting climate change and protecting health and wellbeing”.

“It has never been clearer that the health of humanity is linked to the health of our planet”, said Dr Richard Smith, Chair of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, panelist for the keynote opening session. “The Race to Zero dialogues is right to start by looking at health and climate because it is so fundamental to our future. This is a pivotal moment leading to COP26 in 2021, with health professionals leading the way, individually, in our practice and in our organisations. But we need all society to lead and prioritise rapid decarbonisation for a cleaner, greener, healthier world.”

“The pandemic has been just a glimpse of the challenges ahead with climate change”, said Heather Thompson, CEO, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, who will take part in the Race to Zero carbon road transport session “I believe one of the most important things we can do as we recover is to plan our cities around people instead of cars. Cities must pivot towards solutions that create a healthier balance with more sustainable transportation – centered on walking, cycling, and public transport – and take space away from polluting cars.”

“I believe that a healthy and resilient zero-carbon recovery is essential for the survival of all life on earth”, said James Irlam, Chair of the Climate Energy and Health (CEH) Special Interest Group of the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) who will speak at the Race to clean energy: Youth set the agenda for a healthy recovery event. “The COVID-19 pandemic is both a ‘wake-up’ call about the depth of our planetary crisis, and an unprecedented opportunity to work radically and urgently towards a ‘new normal’.”

‘”As young people and young health professionals, we will live through the consequences of the climate crisis”, said Poorvaprabha Patil, President of the Medical Students Association of India, who will speak at the Race to clean energy: Youth set the agenda for a healthy recovery event. “The onus is on us to truly protect the health and longevity of our communities through an intersectoral approach to health and climate action.”

“We must move from words to action – the urgency of the health and climate crises  demands decisive action and substantive finance from governments to deliver a fair transition away from fossil fuels towards clean development and the means for healthy adaptation and resilience for the most vulnerable countries and communities,” said Global Climate and Health Alliance Executive Director Jeni Miller, who will take part in the Race for Health Resilience session. “Around the world, governments must enact decisive plans to achieve global net zero carbon emissions by 2050, in order to reduce the impact of climate change, deliver cleaner air and other benefits to health, while also strengthening our communities and protecting our children’s futures”.

Register for the Race to Zero Climate and Health Dialogue here
Read the media briefing here
Video: Check out the messages from our speakers, and follow the Race to Zero Climate and Health Dialogue live on YouTube  

The Race To Zero Climate & Health Dialogue – for a healthy, resilient, and zero-carbon Recovery is hosted by the World Health Organization, in collaboration with Race To Zero, the Global Climate and Health Alliance, the Wellcome Trust, Glasgow Caledonian University and its Centre for Climate Justice, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, and the Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Media Contacts
Arthur Wyns, World Health Organization, +49 1516 3113879, [email protected]
Dave Walsh, Global Climate and Health Alliance, +34 691 826 764, [email protected]
Laurence Bourton, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, [email protected]
Amy Thomas, LSHTM, Pathfinder Initiative, [email protected]
Christopher Fitzgerald, Glasgow Caledonian University, [email protected]