Health is central to climate change action

IISD/ENB

From left: Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Ségolène Neuville, Minister of State for Disabled People and the Fight against Exclusion, France; and His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco.

"Climate change has a serious adverse impact on human health, economic prosperity, political stability and societal productivity, and Europe is not spared," said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in her opening address at the 'Health Central to Climate Change Action' event in Paris on 9 December 2015. Dr Jakab continued by explaining how an agreement on climate change could potentially save many lives worldwide, through for example, investment in low-carbon development and clean renewable energy and strengthening climate resilience.

High-level experts and advocates called for strong, effective action on climate change to protect humanity and health for this and future generations at the side-event to the 21st annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The event was organized by the Scientific Centre of Monaco, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), the European Working Group on Health in Climate Change (HIC) and WHO/Europe. 

His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco opened the event by underlining the gravity of the impact of climate change on health, including both communicable and noncommunicable diseases, malnutrition, food insecurity, heat-waves and air pollution. In her opening remarks, Dr Ségolène Neuville, Minister of State for Disabled People and the Fight against Exclusion, attached to the Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Women's Rights, France, emphasized the importance of sharing data on health and climate data at regional level and strengthening preventive approaches. A keynote presentation by Sir David King, Special Representative for Climate Change, United Kingdom, was followed by a panel debate. 

The messages highlighted by participants included the following.

  • Strong, effective action to limit climate change is needed in order to avoid unacceptable risks to global health.
  • Actions that both reduce climate change and improve health should be scaled up urgently.
  • More financing for health adaptation, climate-resilient communities and the protection of families is needed everywhere.
  • Education and capacity development are key to changing lifestyle and behaviour.
  • Partnerships can accelerate implementation.

The panel brought together high-level climate change and health experts from across the world. The panellists were: Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of Germany; Stana Božović, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Serbia; Gina Radford, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom; Patrick Rampal, President of the Centre Scientifique de Monaco; Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization; Christian Friis Bach, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe; Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency; Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist of the United Nations Environment Programme; and Genon Jensen, Executive Director of the Health and Environment Alliance.