WHO Urges Urgent Health-Centric Climate Action Ahead of COP-28. 

Health needs to be front and centre of national plans to fight climate change

In preparation for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-28), the World Health Organization (WHO) has released its “2023 review of health in nationally determined contributions and long-term strategies.” This comprehensive report emphasizes the critical need to prioritize human health in national plans combating climate change.

The adverse impacts of climate change on health are already evident, ranging from illnesses induced by extreme climate events to the proliferation of vector-borne diseases. WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stresses the interconnectedness of human health and the planet, asserting that swift action is imperative to protect both.

Encouragingly, the integration of health into nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and long-term low emissions and development strategies (LT-LEDS) has seen notable progress. Currently, 91% of available NDCs incorporate health considerations, a significant increase from 70% in 2019. Targets and policies addressing health in various climate aspects are being increasingly developed.

However, substantial gaps persist, particularly in addressing air pollution. Despite being a major environmental health risk causing seven million premature deaths annually, only 16% of NDCs feature specific targets, measures, or policies to combat air pollution.

To bridge these gaps, WHO emphasizes the need for ambitious action on air pollution, advocating for scalable, accelerated, and well-funded commitments. Improving air quality not only saves lives but also brings broader health benefits. For example, measures to reduce carbon emissions can promote activities like walking and cycling and encourage healthy diets.

Despite the positive strides, health-specific climate action remains underfunded. Sustainable climate finance is crucial for health adaptation and mitigation, yet the sector is chronically underfunded in national climate plans. Only one in ten NDCs includes domestic funding for health actions, and a mere 2% of adaptation funding is allocated explicitly to health protection.

To address these challenges, WHO calls for increased funding and a more equitable distribution of resources to health-centric policies and initiatives. The organization remains committed to supporting countries in building climate-resilient health systems and reducing emissions from healthcare.

WHO is actively involved in COP-28, leading the first-ever dedicated health day on December 3, 2023, and convening a meeting of Health and Climate Ministers to accelerate health-focused climate action.

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Harsha Sharma

Harsha is a senior content writer with numerous hobbies who takes great pride in spreading kindness. Earning a Postgraduate degree in Microbiology, she invests her time reading and informing people about various topics, particularly health and lifestyle. She believes in continuous learning, with life as her inspiration, and opines that experiences enrich our lives.

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