Health must be front in COP27 climate change negotiations - WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) insists that health should be a key topic in COP27 negotiations as climate change has been affecting people’s health and will not stop if governments do not take action now.
While climate change has been affecting people’s health and will continue doing so unless urgent action is taken, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a grim reminder that people are getting sick and their lives are jeopardized due to the climate crisis, arguing that this is why health must be at the core of critical climate talks at COP27.
The conference, the WHO believes, must end with progress on the four main goals of mitigation, adaptation, financing, and collaboration to address the climate crisis.
COP27 will be a major opportunity for the world states to gather and renew their commitment to keeping the 1.5 °C Paris Agreement goal alive.
“Climate change is making millions of people sick or more vulnerable to disease all over the world and the increasing destructiveness of extreme weather events disproportionately affects poor and marginalized communities,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, adding, “It is crucial that leaders and decision-makers come together at COP27 to put health at the heart of the negotiations.”
A human's health depends on the health of the surrounding ecosystems, and these ecosystems are being threatened by deforestation, agriculture, other changes in land use, and rapid urban development. The opportunities for viruses to make a transition from their animal host are increased by the encroachment into animal habitats. Climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 more deaths per year, between 2030 and 2050, because of malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria, and heat stress.
How does temperature affect health?
When the global temperature rises, which has already happened, it leads to extreme weather events that bring intense devastating floods, heatwaves and droughts, powerful hurricanes, and tropical storms. All these factors together increase the impact on human health and are likely to accelerate.
One example of such extreme weather events in the greater Horn of Africa, 31,000,000 people are living in acute hunger and 11,000,000 children are facing acute malnutrition. The region faces one of the worst droughts, and if the current trends leading to this impact on food security persist, things will only get worse.
Another example is in Pakistan, where the floods that have devasted vast swathes of the country, are the consequence of climate change. The impact will be felt for years to come, as more than 33,000,000 people have been affected, and nearly 1500 health centers were damaged.
Also, the flooding and heat waves recently in central Europe are a good example that shows these impacts are not just happening in one part of the world. Even communities and regions less familiar with extreme weather are witnessing changes they have rarely seen before.
Is there room for hope?
If governments take immediate action to honor the pledges made at Glasgow in November 2021 and to go further in resolving the climate crisis, there will be room for hope.
WHO is calling on governments to lead a just, equitable, and fast phase-out of fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy future. Commitments to decarbonization have also progressed in an encouraging way, and WHO is calling for the creation of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty that would eliminate coal and other fossil fuels that are harmful to the atmosphere in a just and equitable way. These steps would significantly contribute to climate change mitigation.
Promoting more urban green spaces -- which facilitates climate mitigation and adaptation and decreases exposure to air pollution -- and campaigning for local traffic restrictions and enhancing local transport systems, are all factors that can contribute to the improvement of human health.
Climate policy must put health at the center
If climate policies put human health at the center, health benefits will be seen. Health-focused climate policy would contribute to a cleaner-air planet, more effective and fairer health and social protection systems, more abundant and safer fresh water and food, and, consequently, healthier people.
Investment in clean energy will yield health gains. Proven interventions able to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants exit. One example is the application of higher standards for vehicle emissions, which have been proven to save almost 2.4 million lives per year, through improved air quality and the reduction of global warming by about 0.5 °C by 2050. The cost of renewable sources of energy has significantly decreased in the past few years, and solar energy has become cheaper than coal or gas in most major economies.