COP28 opened with its World Climate Action Summit, on Saturday the 2nd of December,
where over 120 countries signed a new Declaration on Climate and Health.

This new declaration has been announced due to health being overlooked during previous COPs. COP28 is the first time health has been discussed as a topic, and the declaration hopes to increase the rate in which emissions are lowering and plans to provide much needed financial support into the health sector. It states that the steps that need to be taken to achieve this are:

  • Building more climate resilient health systems

  • Significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions

  • Improve and maximise health benefits

  • Improve cross sector collaboration

  • Increase finance that will improve climate and health solutions

The President and host of COP28, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, announced the release of the new declaration and stated that:

“We have received commitments from 123 countries that are ready to sign the
health declaration. That is a big achievement. It is a giant leap in the
right direction.”

The countries that have signed the declaration have also pledged to incorporate targets directly linked to health into their national climate plans, and they have also stated that they will work towards improving international collaboration to address the health risks that climate change imposes. The signatories have also promised that health will remain a topic of importance for all future COP Summits.

The Director-General at the UN’s World Health Organization, also known as WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has stated that he wished health had been seen as a priority in previous COPs as COP28 is the first time in 28 years has been a theme. He addressed the delegates at the Summit and stated that:

 

“The climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote
in climate discussions.

WHO thanks the [United Arab Emirates] for making health a key priority in its
COP28 Presidency, and welcomes this Declaration, which emphasises the need to
build climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems, to protect the health of
both planet and people.”

WHO has warned that the climate crisis will increase negative health impacts around the world, due to extreme weather events, that we are already seeing take many lives from around the world. As the temperature rises and our atmosphere changes, we are poisoning the air that we breathe and need to survive. The organisation has estimated that around seven million people die each year due to air pollution.

COP28

Due to these figures the World Health Organization has further warned that the world must reduce its global emissions by 43% in order to reduce the impact of these health risks. To do this the world’s governments must work towards decarbonising their energy systems and reaching Net Zero as quickly as possible.

One of the first countries to endorse the new declaration was Malawi. The country’s President, Lazarus Chakwera, gave his thoughts on why his country signed the declaration, he stated that:

“Climate change is increasingly impacting the health and wellbeing of our
communities. Malawi has experienced these impacts first hand –
extreme weather events have displaced tens of thousands of our citizens
and sparked infectious disease outbreaks that have killed thousands more. This year,
at COP28, we are calling for a bolder path forward that prioritises investments in
health and wellbeing, ensures a just transition away from fossil fuels, and creates a healthier future for all of us.”

It is important to note that this declaration is not legally binding and is seen as a voluntary call to action for those that have signed it.

For further information and up to date news on COP28 and its themes, please see our COP28 Focus homepage where you can access all of our guides, news, and reports from the event.