(Dubai) More than 120 Countries have backed the Conference of Parties (COP) declaration on climate and health for neglected tropical diseases that experts have warned would escalate due to the climate crisis.
The declaration, described as a “breakthrough” moment for health in climate talks for decades, would help to fight against malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, and heat stress.
“Today the COP28 Presidency joined with the World Health Organization to announce a new ‘COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health’ (the Declaration) to accelerate actions to protect people’s health from growing climate impacts,” a statement posted on the COP28 website said.
The Declaration was announced at the ongoing COP in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to the declaration statement, the declaration was developed with the support of a number of ‘country champions’ including Brazil, Malawi, the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Kenya, Fiji, India, Egypt, Sierra Leone, and Germany. “This joint action comes as annual deaths from polluted air hit almost 9 million and as 189 million people are exposed to extreme weather-related events each year.”
“The impacts of climate change are already at our door. They have become one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century. Governments have now rightly recognized health as a crucial element of climate action” said COP28 President, Dr Sultan Al Jaber. He continued: “The Declaration sends a strong signal that we must reduce global emissions and work together to strengthen our health systems.”
The declaration, the first ever since the start of the climate pandemic, would not only benefit developing nations such as Liberia but also other developed countries that are battling tropical diseases.
“We welcome today’s announcement of 123 countries endorsing the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health,” said Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance. “For COP28 to go down in history as the first ‘Health COP’, it will be necessary for governments to sustain this focus on health throughout the negotiations, and to take real action to protect people’s health — including the phase-out of fossil fuels, additional finance to address the impacts of climate change, and making health a fundamental measure of our progress and success on climate action.”
COP28 president Jaber led the declaration, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention.
“The climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “WHO thanks the UAE for making health a key priority in its COP28 Presidency, and welcomes this declaration, which emphasizes the need to build climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems, to protect the health of both planet and people.”
“Climate change is increasingly impacting the health and well-being of our communities,” said Lazarus Chakwera, President of Malawi, one of the first countries to endorse the Declaration. “Malawi has experienced these impacts first-hand–extreme weather events have displaced tens of thousands of our citizens and sparked infectious disease outbreaks that have killed thousands more. This year, at COP28, we are calling for a bolder path forward that prioritizes investments in health and wellbeing, ensures a just transition away from fossil fuels, and creates a healthier future for all of us.”
The Declaration covers a range of action areas at the nexus of climate and health, including building more climate-resilient health systems, strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration to reduce emissions and maximize the health benefits of climate action, and increasing finance for climate and health solutions. Signatories have also committed to incorporate health targets in their national climate plans and improve international collaboration to address the health risks of climate change, including at future COPs.