Menu Menu

Climate change risks to public health will be highlighted at COP28

The next UN climate summit will be the first to consider health issues in depth, with a meeting of global health ministers to underline the crisis’ impact on wellbeing.

Every year, global leaders join forces at the UN climate summit to discuss the most concerning issues relating to our ecological emergency.

Last November, the focus was largely on loss and damage, with world nations under immense pressure to financially support those most disproportionately impacted.

And though encouraging wealthy governments to pay compensation is no less essential this time around, COP28 will be the first to consider human health issues in depth, namely the risks posed by climate change to our wellbeing.

It comes after new research uncovering that 58% of infectious diseases (218 of the 375 we know of) have been exacerbated by the various hazards associated with environmental breakdown (wildfires, extreme precipitation, and rising sea levels to name a few), posing a significant threat to life on Earth.

It’s also estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that an additional 250,000 people will die each year from 2030 to 2050 due to proliferating diseases, malnutrition and heat stress, and that this could undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction.

Health Professionals Welcome COP28 Health Day But Emphasize Health Focus Must Go Further - The Global Climate and Health Alliance

For this reason, an entire day at COP28 has been dedicated to highlighting these links and to pushing tangible action that mitigates the threats at hand.

‘We will be the first Cop to dedicate a day to health and the first to host a health and climate ministerial,’ said COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber earlier today.

‘And we need to broaden our definition of adaptation to enable global climate resilience, transform food systems and enhance forestry land use and water management.’

As is widely understood, the crisis is likely to place further burdens on already overstretched global health systems.

In addition to dealing with the worsening natural disasters we’ve already begun to witness such as heatwaves, floods, and droughts, doctors will be faced with the increased stress on patients from warming temperatures due to the rapidly rising spread of disease vectors like mosquitoes.

Iberdrola at the Climate Summit 2023 - Iberdrola

‘Extreme weather events, biodiversity loss, land degradation, and food and water scarcity have a profound impact on the health of millions of people.

The effects of global warming will only accelerate unless we take action now to tackle the root cause of climate change,’ said WHO director general, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus.

He is calling on delegates to develop a clear, achievable roadmap to COP28 that brings together a diverse range of stakeholders from the health sector to ensure that public health is elevated in the climate agenda and is leveraged as a moment to make progress on the climate resilience of healthcare systems.

‘We must urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and work to reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels,’ continues Ghebreyesus.

‘We must embrace strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change, such as using innovative technologies, investing in climate resilient health systems, and having a well-trained and decentrally paid health workforce.’