Global pact to tackle climate impact on health

November 13 2017

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat on Sunday signed a MoU to renew their joint commitment to tackle public health challenges emerging from rising temperatures and to help countries boost the efficiency of their response to climate change.

The signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) coincides with the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, and the need to ensure that countries with weak or inadequate health infrastructure receive support to protect human health and build climate resilience to respond to such threats.

The signing of the pact recognises the protection and enhancement of health as an essential pillar of sustainable development, requiring the widest possible cooperation by all countries and other relevant stakeholders.

"I am delighted that our two institutions are evolving our relationship to both a higher and more action-oriented level. The Paris Climate Change Agreement needs all hands on deck if we are to ensure a healthy world and healthy citizens now and into the future," an official statement quoting UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said.

"Many people experience climate change through the impact on their health, from air pollution and heatwaves to contamination of drinking water from extreme weather events... If together and with many partners we can realise the world's climate goals we can also play our role in providing a major health boost to billions of people," she said.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "Climate change is one of the most pressing public health threats of our time. The health of future generations everywhere depends on all of us working together to take concrete action today."

The collaboration takes place at a time when climate change poses a significant threat to public health -- extreme weather events and variable climate affect clean air, safe drinking water, food security and secure shelter -- and could cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from heat stress, malnutrition, diarrhoea and malaria, between 2030 and 2050.

The agreement will ensure that health is represented in the global climate change agenda, allowing both institutions to adopt a more integrated and inter-sectoral approach for improving global health and contributing to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The pact will provide a joint framework for strategic collaboration between the WHO and the UNFCCC to support capacity building, particularly in the developing world, and help countries reduce health vulnerability to climate change by providing guidance on health risks from climate change and benefits from mitigation policies.

(Vishal Gulati is in Bonn at the invitation of the Global Editors Network to cover COP23. He can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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