Over 120 countries back COP28 UAE climate, health declaration
DUBAI, December 2, 2023
The COP28 Presidency joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) to announce a new ‘COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health’ to accelerate actions to protect people’s health from growing climate impacts.
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 189 million people are exposed to extreme weather-related events each year.
It was announced at the World Climate Action Summit, where world leaders gathered for the start of COP28.
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 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 recognised health as a crucial element of climate action," said Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President.
"The Declaration sends a strong signal that we must reduce global emissions and work together to strengthen our health systems," he stated.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation, pointed out that the climate crisis was a health crisis, "but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions."
"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," he noted.
"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 prioritises investments in health and wellbeing, ensures a just transition away from fossil fuels, and creates a healthier future for all of us," he added.
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 maximise 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.
It is also recognised that finance will be a significant driver of the Declaration’s success.
As such, the COP28 Presidency joined with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Green Climate Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the WHO to unveil a set of ten principles to bolster financing for climate and health, mobilise new and additional finance, and foster innovation with transformative projects and new multi-sector approaches.
Endorsed by over 40 financing partners and civil society organisations, the COP28 Guiding Principles for Financing Climate and Health Solutions signal the growing collaboration across funders and the momentum to support climate and health solutions in a sustainable manner.
It also welcomed the finance announcements made by a wide range of stakeholders including governments, development banks, multilateral institutions, philanthropies, and NGOs to expand their investments in climate and health solutions. Collectively, these partners have committed to dedicate US$1 billion to address the growing needs of the climate health crisis.
Speaking on the climate health principles, Mafalda Duarte - Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund said, “These Guiding Principles come at a pivotal moment in our fight against climate change. By creating and implementing this holistic and more equitable framework, we will find whole-of-economy benefits for prioritising health in climate financing.”
The COP28 Presidency recognises that reducing the health impacts of climate change will require action across all of society, including rapid and large-scale action to decarbonise energy systems to reduce emissions by at least 43 percent over the next seven years.
To this end, the announcement of the Declaration at the World Climate Action Summit on December 2nd was just one of a number of announcements from the COP28 Presidency, which recognised the need to reduce the health impacts of climate change beyond the health sector and included new initiatives to drive rapid decarbonisation to reduce emissions by at least 43 percent over the next seven years to keep 1.5°C within reach.
On 3rd December – COP28’s Health Day - will see the first ever climate and health Ministerial at a COP. Ministers of Health and senior health delegations from over 100 countries are expected to attend. The COP28 Presidency will also gather climate and global health financiers, development banks, countries, philanthropies, and the private sector to respond to the country priorities and needs raised at COP28 and scale up finance interventions that will protect and promote human health.