For the first time the topic of health has made its way onto the agenda for COP28.
The theme was discussed on the 3rd of December 2023, and shared its day with the theme of Relief, Recovery and Peace.
As temperatures continue to rise, there is also an increase in natural disasters, including droughts, floods, and wildfires. Sea levels will rise due to the ice sheets melting. Climate related diseases will increase, such as from water that becomes contaminated with dirty flood water. There will also be an increase in health conditions, such as heat stroke.
The UN’s World Health Organization, also known as WHO, has announced that due to the increase of these negative impacts there will be roughly 250,000 more deaths globally each year. There will be an increase in deaths that are linked to diseases that are exacerbated through the effects of climate change, therefore we are likely to see an increase in cases of malaria, heat stress and exhaustion, diarrhoea, dehydration, and undernutrition due to temperature rises and increased contamination.
There are already 3 billion people living in areas that are considered to be at a higher risk from climate change and its impacts. These risks mainly come in the form of humanitarian emergencies, including wildfires, floods, storms, hurricanes, and heatwaves. Not only do these disasters cause damage to property and infrastructure, but they also cause severe damage to people’s health and livelihoods.
In many cases these impacts will affect those in developing countries and those in Indigenous communities the worst. Engajamundo is a Brazilian youth-led organisation that believes in changing yourself, your surroundings and engaging in politics will reduce the impacts of climate change.
Engajamundo’s delegate for COP28 is Reudji Kaiabi. Kaiabi is part of the Kaiabi yudja people who live in the Brazilian region of Aldeia Pequizal, Xingu, Mato Grosso. The reason for his visit to COP28 is to highlight the importance of the three main ecosystems in the area that he lives and to warn the attendees about what climate change is doing to these ecosystems. The three ecosystems are the Amazon Rainforest, the Cerrado, and the Pantanal.
Reudji Kaiabi has stated that:
“Even though our community is surrounded by forests, the changes have been
affecting us a lot. We’re seeing a lot of heatwaves, our plantation is dying, the
community is suffering. The river has started to dry up, fishes are dying, and animals
can’t live here anymore.
This is my first time at COP, and my intention as an indigenous youth is to not just
see change in my territory but the entire world. Our ask is to be heard, to be respected,
and to be taken into account in the decision making.”
WHO have used COP28 as a platform for their warning that more should be done to mitigate climate change and save lives. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization addressed those attending COP28 with a warning. He stated that implementing health into COP as a theme was long overdue. He claimed that the topic must be addressed due to the rising concerns for human health that are imposed due to the damaging effects of climate change.
He states that:
“Although the climate crisis is a health crisis, it’s well overdue that 27 COPs
have gone without a serious discussion of health. No more.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was not the only speaker who gave warnings of the health crisis caused by climate change. Other speakers included US climate envoy John Kerry and the former CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates.
During the COP28 World Climate Action Summit, on Saturday 2nd of December, the world passed a new declaration to significantly increase action that will protect people from the negative impacts of climate change.