Dubai, Dec 2 (IANS) Over 120 countries backed the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health on Saturday, delivering a breakthrough moment for health in climate talks.
The COP28 Presidency joined with the World Health Organization to announce the declaration to accelerate actions to protect people’s health from growing climate impacts.
The declaration was announced at the World Climate Action Summit, where world leaders have gathered for the start of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.
Signed by 123 countries, the declaration is announced one day ahead of the first ever Health Day at a COP and marks a world first in acknowledging the need for governments to protect communities and prepare healthcare systems to cope with climate-related health impacts such as extreme heat, air pollution and infectious diseases.
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 nine 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 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 climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization.
“The WHO thanks the UAE for making health a key priority in its COP28 Presidency, and welcomes this declaration, which emphasises 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 wellbeing 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. – IANS