What the Health

12 December 2018

Monday was the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, including “the right to health” which now has a stable place in the Paris preamble. But, where is health at this COP? In spite of the significance of health to humanity, it has not been incorporated into the language of the Rulebook.

Why should the COP outcome include a reference to health? There are two reasons. First, climate change has severe impacts on our health and is likely to have increasing impacts as the Earth warms further; heat exposure resulted in 153 billion hours of labour lost around the world in 2017, an increase of more than 62 billion hours since 2000. Secondly, climate change mitigation can have a major positive impact on health. For example, air pollution currently kills 7 million people worldwide every year. It also causes significant health problems such as asthma and respiratory issues.

When countries try to avoid ambitious mitigation targets because of economic reasons, they fail to recognise the economic benefits of improved health from reducing air pollution. Mitigation pathways identified in the IPCC 1.5°C report typically show that there are significant synergies for reducing air pollution, and that these synergies increase with the stringency of the mitigation policies. Other co- benefits of climate change mitigation include increased physical activity from getting people out of cars, and less diabetes and heart disease from improved diets.

Placing health at the centre of the COP negotiations and countries” NDCs, serves as an important reminder of the significance of climate change for humanity. Mobilizing climate action for health would mean countries have to ensure the most ambitious targets possible and would maximise the health benefits of both mitigation and adaptation efforts. Moreover mobilizing health action for climate can leverage the trusted voice of health professionals and the purchasing power of the health sector by greening the supply chain through sustainable procurement.

ECO encourages all delegations to push for including health in the Rulebook and in their NDCs moving forward.

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