UN Agencies Launch Special Report on Health and Climate Change
A number of UN and other agencies including the WHO, UNOCHR, WMO, UNICEF, UN Environment, UNDP, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition today launched a Special Report on Health and Climate Change. Led by the World Health Organization, the report calls for an end to the ‘unacceptable’ 7 million deaths which are caused by Air Pollution and other drivers which cause changes to the planet that are harmful for human health.
During last year’s UNFCCC COP23, the High Level Presidency, held by the Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, led a call for the World Health Organisation to develop a report on health and climate change to be delivered at COP24 this year in Katowice, Poland. The report is being launched at a side event on health and climate change at this year’s climate negotiations.
Article 1 of the UNFCCC, defines the “adverse effects of climate change” as changes that have “significant deleterious effects… on human health and welfare.” Additionally, there is a high-level political commitment to protect and promote human health which is reflected in the 2015 Paris Agreement and its pre-ambulatory text, which explicitly acknowledges that “Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on… the right to health…”, and recognises the centrality of “mitigation actions and their co-benefits for adaptation, health and sustainable development.”
Under international human rights law, States also have a legally binding obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human right to health for all persons which requires they take action to prevent foreseeable harms posed by climate change.
At the launch of the report today in Poland, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, provided comments on the state of climate change and health, ‘Given the the growing evidence on the health impacts of climate change, including the adverse effects of rising temperatures and extreme heat, the health co-benefits of climate action (including health benefits of enhanced action on short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and methane), and the important role that the health sector plays in every country, there is a need to increase the understanding of this dimension of the climate issue so as to best meet the goals of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.