The Global Climate & Health Alliance

London, 2 December 2020:- Responding to the launch of The 2020 Report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, the Global Climate and Health Alliance today called on national governments to step up their climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, and to align covid recovery investments and decisions with a sustainable and climate-healthy future [1].

“World leaders must draw motivation from this year’s Lancet Countdown report to drive ambitious and meaningful action that will immediately increase the pace of carbon emission reductions”, said Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance. “With the world already having warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius, impacts on human health are beginning to snowball”.

“If we are to keep global warming within safe levels, governments must immediately begin a three-to-fivefold increase of national climate commitments, to match the ambitions of the Paris Agreement within the next five years, and to limit warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius [2]. Further delay will require far steeper emissions cuts, and may well put the 1.5C target out of reach. Implementation strategies in key sectors – energy, transport, buildings and urban environments, food and agriculture – must be developed with health sector input to reap the maximum health and economic benefits.”

“It is particularly incumbent upon G20 countries to act, as they are responsible for 78% of global greenhouse gas emissions. To date, none has submitted a Paris Agreement commitment (referred to as a “Nationally Determined Contribution”) that aligns with the 1.5C target necessary to protect human health [3]. The time to deliver and to act on these commitments is now.”

“Climate change effects such as heatwaves and extreme weather events, droughts and changing infectious disease patterns are already resulting in lost lives, costly damage, and threats to people’s livelihoods and productivity.”

“According to this year’s Lancet Countdown, the economic benefits of ambitious climate action to limit warming to 1.5C would ‘generate net global benefit of US$264-610 trillion’ by 2100, even before fully accounting for health benefits [4]. As governments pour funds into Covid-19 recovery, they must align public covid spending with climate change response — for economic reasons no less than for health”, she continued.

The Lancet Countdown report calls for the response to Covid-19 to be “fully and directly aligned with national climate change strategies”, saying that “both of these public health crises must be carefully examined and closely linked. Health professionals,” it notes, “are well placed to act as a bridge between the two issues”.

During a speech today on the State of the Planet, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal.” But, as he went on, “COVID recovery and our planet’s repair can be two sides of the same coin… But we must remember, there can be no separating climate action from the larger planetary picture. Everything is interlinked — the global commons and global well-being.” [5]

Miller went on to comment that “Doctors, nurses and public health workers know better than anyone the severity of the pandemic. Around the world, many health professionals are battling exhaustion as they address new surges and outbreaks. There is currently a US$28.2 billion global shortfall that must be addressed for supplies for health workers, and for vaccine production and equitable, worldwide vaccine distribution [6]. Getting the pandemic under control is essential for the public’s health, and essential for our economic health.”

“Part and parcel with this, governments should pay heed to the message coming from health leaders and organizations around the world: addressing climate change must happen now, right alongside our Covid-19 pandemic response [7]. Governments must pursue an integrated strategy that invests public funds wisely, heals, protects and supports people equitably, and puts climate action rapidly on track toward a healthy, safe and sustainable future”, concluded Miller.

Download The 2020 Report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change


Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, Global Climate and Health Alliance, +34 691 826 764 [email protected]

[1] The 2020 Report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change

Lancet Countdown is an international collaboration of research institutes and universities, providing an independent annual assessment of global progress on climate change and health. Affiliated with the internationally recognized medical journal The Lancet, the project reports annually on 43 indicators, to provide a snapshot on climate progress with specific attention to the health impacts and opportunities of climate change.

The Lancet Countdown outlines the current impacts of climate change on health, global adaptation and resilience efforts, and the health benefits of action to mitigate climate change. It also tracks economic and financial dimensions of climate and health, as well as public and political engagement and response.

[2] UN Environment Programme: Emissions Gap Report 2019

[3] CAT Climate Target Update Tracker: Countries with submitted or proposed NDC updates

2020 NDC Tracker

[4] See also “Self-preservation strategy for approaching global warming targets in the post-Paris Agreement era”

[5] UN Secretary-General, António Guterres: Climate Action: It’s time to make peace with nature, UN chief urges

Text of the full speech on the State of the Planet

[6] World Health Organization: Access to COVID-19 tools funding commitment tracker

[7] Healthy Recovery Letter from Health Professionals to G20 Leaders

World Health Organization: WHO Manifesto for a healthy and green recovery from COVID-19

UK Health Alliance on Climate Change: UKHACC Urges PM to Announce Ambitious Carbon Reduction Plan

Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health: Letter to Congress on COVID-19, Climate and Health

Australia: ‘Two global health emergencies’: doctors’ group backs green stimulus

Howard Catton, CEO International Council of Nurses: Healthy Lives Depend on a Healthy Planet

The Global Climate and Health Alliance is the leading global convenor of health professional and health civil society organizations addressing climate change. We are a consortium of health organisations from around the world united by a shared vision of an equitable, sustainable future, in which the health impacts of climate change are minimized, and the health co-benefits of climate change mitigation are maximised.

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