Health took centre stage at the first ever ‘Health Day’ at COP28 on 3 December. The program focused the attention of world leaders on the profound public health-related issues stemming from climate change. Rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and changing ecosystems contribute to the increase of respiratory and water borne diseases, food insecurity and water scarcity around the world. Data reported indicates that annual deaths from polluted air reached almost 9 million and 189 million people are exposed to extreme weather-related events each year. The inclusion of a Health Day reflects the growing recognition of the interconnectedness of the environmental and health challenges faced.
Health ministers and senior health delegations from over 100 countries attended a series of focused discussions and commitments relating to five key topics:
- showcasing evidence base and clear impact pathways between climate change and human health;
- promoting “health arguments for climate action” and health co-benefits of mitigation;
- highlighting needs, barriers, and best practices for strengthening climate resilience of health systems;
- identifying and scaling adaptation measures to address the impacts of climate change on human health; and
- taking action at the nexus of health and relief, recovery, and peace.
Health Day was a significant step towards integrating health within the climate change agenda. It brought a record number of health ministers to COP28, thereby elevating the global profile of the climate and health nexus.
COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health
Another important outcome of COP28 has been the announcement of a new ‘COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health’ by the COP28 Presidency and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The declaration has garnered widespread international support with 123 nations signing on to “place health at the heart of climate action”.
The declaration includes commitments to act through the inclusion of health in National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Actively engaging health ministers alongside environment and finance ministers in climate policy is evidence of the central role health is playing in the climate agenda.
The declaration also calls for an increase in the proportion of financing devoted to climate and health solutions. A diverse group of stakeholders including governments, development banks, multilateral institutions, philanthropies, and NGOs have already collectively pledged $1 billion to address the growing needs of the climate-health crisis, including contributions of $300 million by the Global Fund, $100 million by the Rockefeller Foundation and £54 million by the UK Government. The funders and partners have endorsed nine guiding principles for the financing of health and climate solutions in order to mobilise new and additional finance, foster innovation with transformative projects, to include new multi-sector approaches and to address concerns related to health or climate ‘washing’.
The nine guiding principles are:
- accelerate transformative climate and health solutions to save and improve lives now and in the future;
- support the health and climate priorities of the most impacted countries and communities;
- promote an inclusive and equitable approach to financing climate and health solutions;
- mobilise a suite of financing from all partners;
- embed climate and health goals across financing strategies;
- enhance equitable access to finance;
- support holistic approaches;
- support innovation and scientific research and development; and
- promote the alignment of financing for climate and health solutions with broader efforts to transform the international financing system.
Financial commitment and investment by industry is crucial for implementing initiatives that enhance healthcare systems' resilience in the face of changing climate patterns.