Source: Small Island Developing States
5 December 2018: Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change could save approximately a million lives per year worldwide by 2050, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, which contends that the value of health gains from climate action would be twice the cost of mitigation policies, with the benefit-to-cost ratio even higher in countries like China and India.
The ‘COP 24 Special Report: Climate Change and Health,’ which was launched during a side event on the margins of the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December 2018, highlights the importance of health considerations in advancing climate action, and provides recommendations for policymakers on how best to tackle climate action and public health issues in tandem.
According to the WHO, air pollution exposure causes seven million deaths annually, and costs more than USD 5 trillion in welfare losses globally. In high-emitting countries, the health impacts of air pollution are estimated to cost more than 4% of their gross domestic product (GDP). It is estimated that efforts to meet Paris Agreement goals would cost around 1% of global GDP. Just 0.5% of multilateral climate funds earmarked for climate change adaptation, the report notes, have been allocated to health projects.
Speaking during the event, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus underscored that climate change is already seriously impacting on human lives and health, noting that it threatens clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply and safe shelter. Maria Neira, WHO Director of Public Health, said transitioning to cleaner and more sustainable choices for energy supply, transport and food systems pays for itself, given the health burden of polluting energy sources.
Transitioning to cleaner choices for energy supply, transport and food systems pays for itself, given the health burden of polluting energy sources.
The report calls on countries to: account for health in cost-benefit analyses of climate change mitigation; use fiscal incentives, such as carbon pricing and energy subsidies, to incentivize sectors to reduce their emissions; and remove existing barriers to supporting climate-resilient health systems.
The report also recommends that countries advance climate, health and development objectives by, inter alia:
- identifying and promoting actions that both cut carbon emissions and reduce air pollution;
- including commitments to cut emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs);
- ensuring that commitments to assess and safeguard health in the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement are reflected in operational mechanisms;
- removing barriers to investment in health adaptation to climate change, including in “climate-smart” health facilities;
- engaging the health community, civil society and health professionals;
- promoting the role of cities and subnational governments in climate action benefiting health; and
- including the health implications of mitigation and adaptation measures in economic and fiscal policy.
The report also describes the ways in which the SDGs provide a framework for monitoring advances in health and determinants of health for climate resilience, including SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).
It outlines increased investment in the provision of renewable energy for health care facilities, citing, for example, the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) ‘Solar for Health’ initiative, which supports the installation of solar photovoltaic cells in health facilities and helps advance SDG 3, SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 7, SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals).
The WHO wrote the report at the request of the President of the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 23), Prime Minister Bainimarama of Fiji, to prepare a report on health and climate change to be delivered at COP 24. [Publication: COP 24 Special Report: Climate and Health] [WHO News Story] [UN Press Release] [WHO Statement for COP 24] [Climate Change and Health: Facts in Pictures] [COP 24 Side Event Flyer]