COP 28:

Health is wealth

Catch-up on COP: Regular updates and analysis from Strategic Agenda

 COP28 is the first to feature a day dedicated to health issues. Attracting significant media attention, with health professionals rubbing shoulders with ministers and heads of international organisations, Health Day was held on 3 December, the fourth day of COP28. This briefing will explore and evaluate the outcomes of COP28 in terms of health.

The crowning achievement of COP28 Health Day was 121 states became signatories to the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health.

The declaration commits states to:

And scale up investments in climate and health from:

The issue…

Climate change is already having a profound impact on our lives and our health. It is clear that the health of our planet, and our own health, are inextricably linked. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the hosts of Health Day at COP, climate change stands to impact our food and water security causing nutrition crises, increase the spread of vector-borne diseases, and multiplying the number of heat-related deaths. 

Mental health may be deeply impacted by climate-related displacement of populations due to drought and sea level rise, as well as from climate anxiety. The cost of all this is likely to fall disproportionately on the poorest and least able to afford it, who already bear the greatest burden of household spending on health.

Among other shocking statistics:

37% of recent heat-related deaths have been attributed to climate change.
98 million people more suffered from food insecurity in 2020 compared to the average from 1981 to 2010.
Taking just a few health indicators into account, scientists predict 250,000 additional deaths annually from the impact of global warming in years ahead.

Strengthen health systems against climate-sensitive health risks

Examples of applications and innovations include:

  • Build hospitals, shelters, and healthcare facilities with emergency power supplies and water storage systems in climate resilient buildings.
  • Early warning systems for major climate events and outbreaks of climate-sensitive infectious diseases.

Health outcomes of COP28

Figures including John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, have expressed surprise that it has taken so long for a day dedicated to health at a COP. In the run-up to COP28, over 40 million health professionals and organisations put their names to a call from WHO for action on climate change. There was therefore high pressure for a strong statement of intent to emerge from the conference rooms in Dubai.

Ultimately, as the crowning achievement of the COP28 Health Day, 121 states became signatories to the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health. The declaration commits states to:

Cut emissions and reduce waste in the health sector

Examples of applications and innovations include:

  • Streamline and ‘greenify’ supply chains for equipment, medicine and resources.
  • Reduce hospital energy consumption and costs through efficiency and conservation methods, such as climate-responsive building design.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost medical waste, where appropriate, and employ alternatives to waste incineration.

Scale up investments for tackling climate and health linked issues

Examples of applications and innovations include:

  • Mainstream climate change and health linked considerations within domestic and local-level budgets.
  • Engage the private sector in health infrastructure development through infrastructure levies and corporate environmental responsibility programmes.
  • Encourage development banks and finance institutions to developed localised investment programmes that are tailored to the climate, healthcare needs, and potential risks at the country and local level. 

Particular emphasis is placed on supporting the health and climate actions of low- and middle-income countries, which otherwise stand to be most impacted by the intersection of global warming and health challenges.

Like all COP declarations, we must now wait to see whether governments will devote the effort and resources necessary to turn their words on safeguarding our health in the climate crisis into tangible results. The time to act on the climate and health is now.



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