Today Heads of State and leading experts in health and climate gathered to discuss critical concerns around the intersection of climate and health priorities ahead of the UN Climate Conference’s (COP-28) first-ever ‘Day of Health’. The event was held at the beginning of New York Climate Week during the UN General Assembly in New York, USA.
The central theme of the event underscored that the climate crisis is, unequivocally, a health crisis. Climate change poses an imminent and severe threat to human health, affecting nearly half of the world’s population today, not in some distant future.
WHO called on Ministers of Health to raise their voices for health as the driving force behind climate action, leading by example with climate-friendly healthcare systems, and advocating for climate finance that safeguards our well-being today and tomorrow.“The most compelling reasons for climate action are not in the future – they’re right here, and right now,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The climate crisis drives the extreme weather that is taking lives around the world, it fuels the spread of infectious and noncommunicable disease, and it undermines food security. I am grateful to the COP28 UAE Presidency for choosing health as a priority area, and for designating December 3rd as a day dedicated to health.”
Alarming statistics revealed that one in four deaths can be attributed to preventable environmental causes, with WHO estimating an additional 250 000 people are dying every year due to climate change. Rising temperatures, extreme weather events, air pollution, wildfires, and compromised water, land, and food security result in lives lost and negatively impact infectious diseases, heat-related illnesses, noncommunicable diseases, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
The health consequences of climate change carry significant economic ramifications. The World Bank estimates that up to 132 million people will fall into poverty by 2030 due to direct health impacts of climate change, and approximately 1.2 billion people will be displaced by 2050. Investments in health yield substantial returns, with studies showing that every dollar invested in health can generate up to US$ 4. How investing in health has a significant economic payoff for developing economies | Brookings
Climate change is the biggest threat to health in the 21st century and our very survival is at stake,” said Dr Vanessa Kerry, WHO Director-General Special Envoy for Climate Change and Health. “We can no longer afford to suffer from the pandemic of poor and expedient choices which continue to harm our planet and its population. We must invest in human well-being, such as resilient health systems that can ensure adaptation to the growing burdens of disease and impacts of extreme weather and heat that are killing us daily.”
The event set the tone for New York Climate week, urging leaders to ensure investment in adaptation and resilience solutions – a core part of the COP28 agenda – advancing more equitable solutions, especially in countries that emit the least carbon, but are most adversely impacted by climate-driven health outcomes.The COP28 Presidency unveiled its unwavering commitment to the Day of Health before a diverse coalition of influential stakeholders and investors.
“As we prepare for the groundbreaking Health Day at COP28, we are resolute in our determination to address the challenges posed to health by climate change and encourage ambitious investment in the health sector,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President-Designate. “Our goal is to build resilient, equitable health systems capable of withstanding the impact of climate change. COP28 is determined to shine a light on these issues and to bring together partners who can make a positive difference.”
With unwavering resolve, stakeholders are committed to tackling these challenges by proposing a radical vision for change and substantial investment in the health sector. The aim is to construct resilient, equitable health systems capable of withstanding the impacts of climate change.
This event furthermore served as a catalyst for mainstreaming the challenges and opportunities at hand and sharing the impactful initiatives of WHO, the COP28 Presidency, and other key players in addressing climate impacts on health.