A Bangkok air pollution protest in 2020. (Photo: Wason Wanichakorn/Greenpeace)

Global, April 7, 2021:-  Governments worldwide must mark today, World Health Day, by seizing the opportunity to make health the keystone of their national climate action commitments ahead of November’s COP26 climate summit, said an international consortium of health professional and health civil society organizations. The theme of this year’s World Health Day is “building a fairer, healthier world for everyone” [1].

The Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), a global coalition of 70 health professional and health civil society organizations working to address climate change in over 100 countries, today called on governments to take the lessons learned from Covid-19 pandemic responses to make health a central focus of national climate policies, along with ambitious emissions reductions targets that align with the Paris Agreement in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) [2].

GCHA is scheduled to release a scorecard by mid-year, that will rank progress of countries towards the inclusion of health within national climate commitments – or “Healthy NDCs”, as they prepare for COP26. A recent UN report assessed the updated commitments as of December 2020, by 75 countries – which together account for 30% of global emissions. By 2030, the total GHG emissions of these 75 countries are projected to be less than 1% lower than in 2010, falling dangerously short of the 45% reduction in emissions required during this time period if the goal of the Paris Agreement is to be met [3].

“With countries who make up 70% of global emissions yet to go public with updates to their national climate commitments, there is a massive opportunity for governments to escalate climate ambition – the alternative is to risk endangering the health of both people and the planet on which we all depend”, said Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that health must be part and parcel of every government policy – and as recovery plans are drawn up this must apply to climate policy”, she continued. “Healthy populations are a prerequisite for economic recovery, and strong health systems are essential to increase resilience to future crises, such as changing infectious disease patterns and extreme weather events.”

“Furthermore, win-win solutions that both protect health and mitigate climate change have never been more relevant than at this moment of economic fragility. Economic well-being is essential to human health; societies that are more economically equitable — where there is less disparity between the wealthiest and the least wealthy — have better health outcomes for all of their citizens, compared to countries with more extremes of wealth and poverty”, said Miller. “Greater economic equity brings benefits to everyone’s health, and by the World Health Day theme of ‘building a fairer, healthier world for everyone’ will help achieve this.”

“The health impacts of such economic disparity have been laid bare by the pandemic. Our most impoverished communities, and low income countries, also suffer disproportionately from climate change impacts. To help put this right, governments must address the interlinked priorities of health, climate change, economic sustainability and equity as momentum builds towards COP26 this November, by transforming national climate action commitments into Healthy NDCs that not only include ambitious emissions reductions targets aligned with the Paris Agreement, but to also clearly acknowledge and take action to address the relationship between climate change and health, so that people, economies and the planet can benefit”.

A new multinational study of doctors’ and nurses’ understanding of and views on climate change, which will be published at 2330 GMT on Wednesday April 7th in The Lancet Planetary Health, finds that a majority of survey respondents believe the health community should have a say in pushing for national policies that will protect health by meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement [4].

“A country with a healthy national climate action commitment will not only recognise the impacts of climate change on health, and the need for health and equity to be integrated into adaptation planning, as well as setting out interventions that reduce emissions and also offer immediate and local health benefits, such as improved air quality, healthier diets, and increased physical activity”, continued Miller. “Governments must protect their citizens’ health by embedding health in national climate policies, which will also offset the economic costs of climate mitigation and adaptation”.

“Both health systems and economies must be bolstered in preparation for the health burden that is expected to result from rapidly rising temperatures and extreme weather events. In addition, the health benefits of climate solutions are more important than ever at a time when health resources have been strained by the pandemic. As a paltry 1% reduction in GHG emissions would spell disaster for citizens of every country, governments must seize this moment to urgently reorient current trajectories for the sake of people worldwide, and for generations to come”, concluded Miller.

The Global Climate and Health Alliance is calling on governments to ensure that national climate action commitments include: 

  • Ambitious commitments for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, aligned with Paris Agreement target of 1.5C
  • Measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that mitigate climate change and also maximise health co-benefits – such as by improving air quality, and supporting walking and cycling and public transport use.
  •  Calculation of the associated health costs savings, with health impact assessments that demonstrate these health and economic gains.
  • Adaptation strategies which incorporate health and commit investments to build climate smart and resilient healthcare and public health systems.
  • Within and beyond NDCs, Covid-19 recovery investments must align with healthy national climate action/commitments, to protect people, the planet and economies, securing a healthy and sustainable future

ENDS

Contacts:
Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, Global Climate and Health Alliance, +34 691 826 764 press@climateandhealthalliance.org

Notes
[1] World Health Day 2021: Building a fairer, healthier world

https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2021

[2] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are national commitments for climate change response, including policies and measures to achieve the global targets set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. NDCs require regularly updating, with increasingly ambitious targets. The NDCs submitted in the lead up to COP26 will define the course of national climate action until updated NDCs submitted in 2025 come into force.

[3] “Climate Commitments Not On Track to Meet Paris Agreement Goals” as NDC Synthesis Report is Published

https://unfccc.int/news/climate-commitments-not-on-track-to-meet-paris-agreement-goals-as-ndc-synthesis-report-is-published

This figure does not take into account the commitments of countries which had not been submitted at the time the report was drafted, which account for 70% of global emissions

[4] The Lancet Planetary Health: Multi-National Survey of Health Professionals’ Views on Climate Change, published 2330 GMT, Wednesday April 7th (link will not work before then):

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(21)00053-X/fulltext

About the Global Climate and Health Alliance
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.

Find out more: http://climateandhealthalliance.org/about/