The 2021 Global Conference on Health & Climate Change with a special focus on Climate Justice and the Healthy and Green Recovery from COVID-19 will convene at the margin of the COP26 UN climate change conference. The aim of the conference is to call on governments, businesses, institutions and financial actors to drive a green, healthy and resilient recovery from COVID-19. The Conference will support and highlight countries’ ambitious and just Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement that promote and protect health. It will also mobilize the rapidly growing movement of health professionals around the world who are now driving ambitious climate action.
The Global Conference on Health & Climate Change will be organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and by the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), in close collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University and its Centre for Climate Justice, with the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, and other partners.
COVID-19 has turned our societies upside down, and the devastating effects on the health and resilience of our communities will be felt far into the future, including through devastating debt, a slowdown in sustainable development and increased vulnerability to other health threats such as climate change.
In our global response to COVID-19, WHO has repeatedly urged that we must work together as one global family to address the impacts of the pandemic. Similarly, the global health treat of climate change requires global collaboration, increased finance, and the equitable sharing of solutions.
The Paris Agreement is the central instruments for achieving a more stable and safer climate for the next generations to come. At its heart, the Paris Agreement is about caring for people and protecting them from an uncertain and increasingly unsafe future. Everyone has the right to a healthy environment, free of pollution and its harmful consequences.
Over 40 governments have already submitted their updated national climate plans to the Paris Agreement (known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs), and these enhanced climate plans aim to include all vital sectors, including the health sector.
The same human activities that are destabilizing the Earth’s climate also contribute directly to poor health. For example, the main driver of climate change, fossil fuel combustion, also contributes about 2/3 of human exposure to outdoor air pollution, which causes over 4 million deaths a year. Including indoor air pollution brings the total to over 7 million deaths worldwide every year – about 1 in every 8 deaths.
The overall cost to human wellbeing, and to economies, is enormous. Air pollution alone costs an estimated US$ 5.11 trillion in welfare losses globally each year. In the 15 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, the health impacts of air pollution are estimated to cost more than 4% of their GDP. Public concern over the health impacts of air pollution is an increasing driver of social movements for action on climate change and overall environmental protection. Meeting the Paris goals would result in health gains which are twice as large as the costs of the mitigation measures from improved air quality alone.
The health gains of climate action go well beyond air quality. They range from more sustainable diets and food systems addressing the rising burden of disease associated with overweight and obesity, to urban transport systems that facilitate walking and cycling, and bringing health gains from increased physical activity.
Weighing in both the impacts of health-damaging business-as-usual policies and the massive health co-benefits of ambitious climate policy, drives climate policies that are more ambitious and health-promoting.
The Global Conference on Health & Climate Change will bring together a wide range of key actors in public health and climate change policy in order to incorporate public health and climate justice considerations in the UN climate negotiations, and call for a healthy, green and resilient COVID-19 recovery. It will highlight the initiatives, policies and cross-sectoral collaborations that are driving ambitious and healthy Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement in the lead-up to COP26, and showcase the most prominent case studies of countries’ and communities’ efforts in taking ambitious climate and health action.
The conference will be organized by the World Health Organization – convening its 4th Global Conference on Health and Climate – and by the Global Climate and Health Alliance – convening its 8th Global Climate and Health Summit – in close collaboration with the Glasgow Caledonian University and its Centre for Climate Justice, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and other partners.
The overarching theme of the Conference will be Healthy and Green Recovery in line with the WHO Manifesto published in May 2020, and will include sessions on each of its 6 Prescriptions: nature, food systems, sustainable infrastructure, clean energy, cities, and stopping pollution.
The Conference will also highlight some of the main findings of the “The Health Argument for Climate Action – A COP26 Special Report”, as well as the health co-benefits of a broad range of climate policies, including clean energy policies; air quality measures; subsidy reform; smart agriculture and sustainable food systems; educational and civil society involvement; nature-based solutions and others.
A series of WHO-led initiatives, case-studies and workshops throughout 2020-2021 will feed into the outcomes of the Global Conference on Health & Climate Change, as well as the COP26 UN climate conference.
With courtesy of World Health Organization (WHO)