SDG 13: Health and climate action

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Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 is to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. SDG 3 is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Climate and health are closely linked: action on one gets results in the other.

Key messages

  • Climate change has led to changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and changing patterns in infectious disease distribution. These are projected to continue for many decades to come, with further impacts on people and ecosystems.
  • Climate change is projected to lead to an increase in migration, conflicts over natural resources and political instability, thus impacting the economic, environmental and social determinants of health.
  • The level of effects on population health will be dependent on people’s level of exposure; their personal characteristics, such as age, education, income and health status; and their access to services, including health, social and communication services.
  • There is no time to lose. Greenhouse gas emissions must be cut to almost half by 2030 to avert significant global consequences for society and the planet. Reducing emissions to limit further temperature increases to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels is still possible, but substantial scaling-up of technological, economic, institutional and behavioural changes are necessary.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can provide immediate benefits for health, the economy and society by saving lives, reducing diseases and increasing societal well-being (2). The cost savings of the health cobenefits achieved by policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions are substantial.
  • The Paris Agreement, endorsed by all Member States of the WHO European Region, sets ambitious aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions but also commits countries to strengthen adaptation (prevention, protection and response measures), which urgently needs to be scaled up. This includes implementing plans that should protect human health from the impacts of climate change.