COP28 to Dedicate ‘Day to Health’ to Highlight the Impact of Climate Change on Health
August 17, 2023
The United Arab Emirates, set to host the forthcoming UN Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December, is resolute in making it the inaugural “Health COP” with a dedicated Health Day on December 3. The event underscores the pressing health implications of climate change. COP28, while shining a spotlight on these hazards, must also reinforce commitments that leverage the health benefits of robust mitigation and adaptation measures.
However, the path to this conference has its challenges. Recent preparatory talks in Bonn (SB58) witnessed impasses on finance and mitigation discussions, casting shadows on COP28’s December agenda.
The statistics paint a daunting picture: if unchecked, climate change will claim an estimated nine million lives annually by the century’s end. The global community is already grappling with heatwaves, wildfires, deteriorating air quality, floods, and other extreme weather phenomena.
The health sector’s advocacy for emphasizing the health-climate nexus at summits is commendable. While the 2015 Paris Agreement acknowledged health as a foundational premise for climate action, it’s disconcerting that COP27 nearly overlooked the “right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment”. Such oversights underscore the constant struggle to integrate health deliberations into climate diplomacy.
COP28 must reinforce the commitments of the Paris Agreement, acting on the pressing climate change imperatives through a health prism. Although designating Health Days is laudable, COP28 should deliver transformative action transcending ceremonial gestures.
To truly don the mantle of “Health COP”, the conference should chart a trajectory that avoids alarming climate tipping points, demanding concrete strategies and ensuring viable financial and operational frameworks.
The climate crisis is multifaceted. From degrading agricultural practices to urban expansion and plummeting biodiversity, our environment faces manifold challenges that jeopardize ecological and public health with climate change.
Recent devastating forest fires in Canada epitomize the interconnected environmental and health crises. Thus, COP28 must champion adaptive strategies, fortifying healthcare and public health systems and amalgamating health facets into cross-sectoral adaptation blueprints.
As COP28 beckons, the urgency of intertwining health and climate action is palpable. While promising, a dedicated Health Day and health ministers’ presence in delegations isn’t the endgame.
For a transformational COP28, leaders must expedite the shift from fossil fuels, understanding their dual adverse impacts on the environment and health. It’s also pivotal to bolster nations most affected by climate change, addressing global environmental injustices.
For COP28 to be indeed termed a “Health COP”, it requires a holistic approach. From weaning off fossil fuels to aiding vulnerable nations and framing climate strategies around public health, the overarching aim is a future where every individual’s health is paramount. We can only envision a sustainable tomorrow for all by addressing the health dimensions of climate change.