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HomeHealthHealth Must Be Front, Centre In COP27 Climate Change Talks: WHO

Health Must Be Front, Centre In COP27 Climate Change Talks: WHO

Geneva [Switzerland]: As pivotal climate talks began at COP27 on Sunday, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a grim reminder that the climate crisis continues to make people sick and jeopardizes lives and that health must be at the core of these critical negotiations.

In a statement, WHO said it believes the conference must conclude with progress on the four key goals of mitigation, adaptation, financing and collaboration to tackle the climate crisis. COP27 will be a crucial opportunity for the world to come together and re-commit to keeping the 1.5 °C Paris Agreement goal alive, it added. The UN health agency said its focus will be placing the health threat from the climate crisis and the huge health gains that would come from stronger climate action at the centre of discussions.

“Climate change is making millions of people sick or more vulnerable to disease all over the world and the increasing destructiveness of extreme weather events disproportionately affects poor and marginalized communities,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “It is crucial that leaders and decision-makers come together at COP27 to put health at the heart of the negotiations.”

The WHO said, “our health depends on the health of the ecosystems that surround us, and these ecosystems are now under threat from deforestation, agriculture and other changes in land use and rapid urban development.”

The encroachment ever further into animal habitats is increasing opportunities for viruses harmful to humans to make the transition from their animal host. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

The direct damage costs to health (i.e., excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between USD 2-4 billion per year by 2030.

The rise in global temperature that has already occurred is leading to extreme weather events that bring intense heatwaves and droughts, devastating floods and increasingly powerful hurricanes and tropical storms. The combination of these factors means the impact on human health is increasing and is likely to accelerate.

The WHO called on governments to lead a just, equitable and fast phase-out of fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy future.

“There has also been encouraging progress on commitments to decarbonization and WHO is calling for the creation of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty that would see coal and other fossil fuels harmful to the atmosphere phased out in a just and equitable way. This would represent one of the most significant contributions to climate change mitigation,” it added.

Improvement in human health is something that all citizens can contribute to, whether through the promotion of more urban green spaces, which facilitate climate mitigation and adaptation while decreasing the exposure to air pollution, or campaigning for local traffic restrictions and the enhancement of local transport systems.

According to WHO, climate policy must now put health at the centre and promote climate change mitigation policies that bring health benefits simultaneously. “Investment in clean energy will yield health gains that repay those investments twice over,” the UN agency added.

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