Countries commit to climate resilient, low carbon health systems ahead of COP26

Source(s)
World Health Organization

Several Countries, including Cabo Verde, Madagascar, Malawi, and São Tomé and Príncipe, have submitted formal commitments to the COP26 Presidency to strengthen the climate resilience and sustainability of their health systems.

They have done so as part of the COP26 Health Programme, which has been designed to bring a stronger health focus and ambition to the UN climate conference in Glasgow this November. More countries are expected to join ahead of COP26.

Many countries already face a range of acute to long-term health impacts from climate change. By strengthening the resilience of their health systems, countries can help protect their populations from these negative impacts. Ensuring health systems are sustainable and low carbon can also make a substantial contribution to reducing national and global emissions.

In an effort to promote the COP26 Health Programme, two webinars were organized on 29th September, as part of an ongoing collaboration between the COP26 Health PresidencyWHOHealth Care Without Harm (HCWH) and other relevant partners.

The first webinar in this series was opened by Dr. Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director-General, WHO, Hon. Ifereimi Waqainabete, Minister for Health and Medical Services, Fiji and Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Minister of Health Malawi. 

The government of Fiji, which launched the Climate Resilient Health Systems Initiative together with WHO in May 2020, today formally committed to the COP26 Health Initiatives on Climate Resilient and Sustainable Low Carbon Health Systems and Facilities.

“In the midst of the pandemic, we had to recover from extreme weather events and manage the resulting health impacts,” said Hon. Ifereimi Waqainabete, Minister for Health and Medical Services, Fiji. “[It] has shown us that health systems and facilities are the main line of defense in protecting populations from emerging threats … and that now is the time to increase our commitment to a safer, and more sustainable and inclusive future for all.”

As part of the COP26 Health Initiative, Fiji has committed to (1) conducting a climate change vulnerability and adaptation assessment (V&A) of the country’s health system, health care facilities and the health of its population;  (2) reviewing and strengthening its Health National Adaptation Plan (HNAP); and (3) developing a roadmap for a climate resilient health system, and for a net-zero emission health sector before 2045.

Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Minister of Health Malawi, restated the commitments from Malawi today. The government of Malawi has committed to conduct a V&A, strengthen its HNAP, and develop a sustainable low carbon health system that reaches net-zero health sector emissions by 2030.

“The government of Malawi recognizes the essential role of the health sector to ensure a successful COP26, and has committed to strengthen the climate resilience of its health systems, while developing low carbon health systems… as a way of contributing to the targets of the Paris Agreement,” said Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Minister of Health Malawi.

These commitments are welcomed by the UK government, WHO and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), who coordinate the COP26 Health Programme.

“COP26 is an important platform for these commitments to help drive tangible action on the ground, to protect health and reduce emissions,” said Dave McConalogue, Health Adviser, Health Services Team, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), United Kingdom. “As we are driving forwards actions on climate change, we also need to maximize the health benefits of these actions.”

“The future of health system – as with all systems – has to be low carbon, and has to be resilient to climate impacts. These governments are leading the way, and COP26 is the right platform for others to join them,” said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Head, Climate Change and Health Unit, WHO.

“These commitments by governments show that sustainable health care should not reduce quality of care. We will be there on the road to support you during and after COP26,” said Sonia Roschnik, International Climate Policy Director, Health Care Without Harm.

About the COP26 Health Programme

Climate change is resulting in poorer health outcomes, increasing mortality and is a driver of health inequities. However, health is well placed to be a significant part of the solution; the positive health impacts from stronger climate change action can motivate global ambition; health systems which are resilient to climate change can help protect their populations from the negative impacts; and sustainable low carbon health systems can make a substantial contribution to reducing national and global emissions.

Health was selected as one of three science priority area for COP26 by the UK government. As part of the COP26 Health Programme, the COP26 Presidency is working alongside WHO, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and the UNFCCC Climate Champions to engage countries and stakeholders on climate and health.

The COP26 Health Programme has been established to bring stronger health focus and ambition to COP26. Initiatives under the COP26 Health Programme include: 

  • Building climate resilient health systems.
  • Developing low carbon sustainable health systems.
  • Adaptation Research for Health.
  • The inclusion of health priorities in Nationally Determined Contributions.
  • Raising the voice of health professionals as advocates for stronger ambition on climate change.
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