Why has COP never had a Health Day before?
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today couldn’t come soon enough, calling the threats to health from climate change were “immediate and present.”
“Although the climate crisis is a health crisis, it’s well overdue that 27 COPs have been and gone without a serious discussion of health,” he said. “Undoubtedly, health stands as the most compelling reason for taking climate action.”
John Kerry, the US climate envoy, said it was “astonishing” to him that it’s taken so long for health to become a centerpiece of the climate discussion.
“Our bodies are ecosystems, and the world is an ecosystem,” Kerry said. “If you poison our land and you poison our water and you poison our air, you poison our bodies.”
He said his daughter Vanessa, who works with Tedros, “repeats to me frequently that we should not measure progress on the climate crisis just by the degrees averted, but by the lives saved.”
A COP28 declaration backed by some 120 countries stressed the link between health and climate change. It made no mention of phasing out planet-warming fossil fuels, but pledged to support efforts to curb health care sector pollution, which accounts for 5% of global emissions, according to the WHO head.
Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, head of climate and health at WHO, said heat alone has put pressure on the body and led to higher rates of infectious disease.
“Climate change doesn’t need to be on a death certificate for us to be confident that climate change is causing deaths,” Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, WHO’s head of climate and health, said.
Europe is experiencing longer and more intense heatwaves with each year. Read an explainer on the link between extreme heat and climate change here: