The 2018 UN Climate Change Conference known as COP24 wrapped up in Katowice, Poland this month amid an increasing sense of urgency about climate change and how to deal with it. The adoption of a set of operational rules will hold countries to their promises to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The impact of climate change on human health has become increasingly evident in recent years. The World Health Organization prepared a special report for COP24 on Health & Climate Change. This report reiterates the value of the Paris Climate Agreement as “a global safeguard for human health” and urges action to strengthen climate resilience. Measures to mitigate climate change have potential to improve health and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. A section of the report focuses on health gains associated with specific mitigation actions in areas including transportation, households & buildings, agriculture and industry. Mobilizing the health sector is a sub-theme of this report: increasing engagement by the “trusted, globally connected” health community in advocacy is both necessary and viewed favourably. Further, the report asserts that governments and civil society organizations have an important opportunity to develop “green, climate-resilient health care facilities”, highlighting examples of low-carbon strategies in hospitals and health facilities (WHO 2018 pp. 42-44).
Health professionals and their organizations are demonstrating support for greater efforts at all levels. Earlier this year, the International Council of Nurses presented a statement to the 71st World Health Assembly on behalf of the World Health Professions Alliance. Entitled Health, environment and climate change, the statement expressed the commitment of its 31 million members to mitigate climate change and called on the WHO to include health professions in policy decisions on global strategies.
Other recent publications are worth reading for their focus on this important topic:
International Council of Nurses (2018) Position Statement: Nurses, climate change and health. See pp. 3-5 for ICN position and recommendations.
Lancet Countdown 2018 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers published in November 2018 by the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate change in conjunction with the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association.
World Health Organization (2018). COP24 Special Report: Health and Climate Change. This link takes you to the report, press release and other supporting material.
By Nora Whyte – December 18, 2018