The recent, two-day Second Global Conference on Health and Climate, held in France, ended with participants proposing key actions for the implementation of the Paris agreement in an effort to combat climate change and human health crises.
Miss Segolene Royal, the French Environment and Energy Minister said at the conference, “Health and climate are inextricably linked because human health depends directly on the health of the planet.”
The French minister, rotating president for this year’s talks, expressed her concern and promised to evaluate and take action on how to incorporate health as a more central factor for future negotiations. “From now on, I will do my best to ensure that health is integrated into all future climate conferences,” she said.
The conference attendees included more than 300 government ministers, non-government organizations (NGOs) and experts in climate change, health, and sustainable development. The event was hosted by the Government of France, in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and the Moroccan government.
COP 21 or Paris Agreement is a landmark accord between different parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Although the conference was held under the COP 21 presidency, the highlighted agenda is part of the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP 22 which will be presided over by the Moroccan government in Marrakech in November.
The agreement promises to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable, low-carbon future. The treaty pushes the governments involved to intensify their fight against climate change through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and subsequent improvements in their efforts to achieve better results.
Actions proposed at the conference included; switching to cleaner energy sources with low-carbon emission rates, moving to more sustainable food production and healthier diets, adopting new approaches to link climate change to health economics assessment, focusing on assessment and surveillance of climate change, and providing strong leadership regarding policy making.
The conference is a major step towards achieving the goals discussed in the Paris agreement with some key proposed actions such as the formulation of a new approach to link health economics assessment protocols to climate change, being especially noteworthy.
WHO announced a special working group tasked with the sole responsibility to design the new practical approach which would help countries assess what, where, how, and when to invest when it comes to improving health outcomes related to the changing climate.
Surveillance and assessment efforts were given special attention — the new proposal includes designing effective data collection protocols and reporting it though WHO/UNFCCC climate, health country profiles and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicators. WHO has previously published 40 such country health and climate profiles.
WHO and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition also launched a campaign called Breathe Life at the conference, aimed at raising awareness about clean air and a healthier future.
Climate Change And Health Crises
According to data published by WHO, climate change affects tens of thousands of individuals, often resulting in fatalities. Estimates indicate that frequent seasonal epidemics of dengue and cholera along with extreme weather events like flood and heat waves cause many of these deaths.
Air pollution alone kills nearly 7 million people each year in the form of diseases like lung cancer and stroke. The most vulnerable groups include women, older adults, poor and the children which widens the existing health inequalities existing within these populations. WHO estimates that by 2030, climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths each year due to diarrhea, heat stress, malaria, and under-nutrition alone.
A new research conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford and published in Environmental Research Letters concluded the same result. Study results revealed climate change increased the risk of death from heat-related incidents by 70% in Paris and 20% in London, of which hundreds of deaths can be blamed on man-made climate change.
Study coauthor Daniel Mitchell from the University of Oxford, said that, “We are now at the stage where we can identify the cost to our health of man-made global warming.”