WHO pavilion at COP27 to hold over 40 side events on climate-related health issues

WHO pavilion at COP27 to hold over 40 side events on climate-related health issues
05 / 11 / 2022
بقلم Marwa Nassar - -

The World Health Organization (WHO) pavilion at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) – due to be held in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh on November 6 – will showcase over 40 side events related to climate change and health.

The side events will cover topics ranging from energizing health: accelerating electricity access in health-care facilities to the development of early warning systems and climate resilient food systems.

WHO will be promoting the health argument for climate actions, the resilience of health systems, strengthening and reinforcing international cooperation and supporting the most vulnerable countries.

The Health Pavilion is a reminder of how our health is impacted by climate change and environmental factors and why we need to put it at the center of these negotiations.

Over 90 percent of people breathe air that that is polluted beyond WHO air quality limits and threatens their health, causing 7 million premature deaths every year. A heating world is seeing mosquitoes spread disease further and faster than ever before. Extreme weather events, land degradation and water scarcity are displacing people and affecting their health.

Access to energy is critical when it comes to the functionality of health-care facilities and the quality, accessibility and reliability of health services delivered. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide are served by health-care facilities without electricity. Even in cases when electricity connection exists, power supply is not reliable due to poor grid infrastructures or non-functional diesel generators. While most large hospitals have access to electricity, access rates drop dramatically for rural clinics. A high-level event will focus on the urgent need to accelerate electricity access in health-care facilities globally to protect public health and minimize the dramatic impacts of climate change. The event will provide the opportunity to highlight key challenges and to discuss concrete actions and cooperation opportunities, benefiting from the participation of high-level representatives of international organizations and governments.

Moreover, WHO is currently collaborating with Health Canada and leading communication experts to develop guidance and tools for the global health community, in order to improve advocacy and its role in enabling policies that protect health from climate change. This will help to strengthen the authority and agency of health professionals to support more ambitious and socially beneficial climate and health policies.

Another side event will offer an opportunity to promote an open dialogue among policy makers and communication experts, public health and climate communities to take stock on successes, failures and new opportunities to use the health topic in strategic climate talks as motivational factor to raise more ambitions and increase the overall understanding that: INVESTING IN CLIMATE EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS means INVESTING in BETTER HEALTH FOR ALL.

As an additional contribution to this alternative communication approach, one of the thematic film prizes of WHO’s Health for All Film Festival in 2023 will be dedicated to Climate Change and Health and the call for submissions is open until 31 January 2023.

Also, A High level meeting of the Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH)” will be held within the framework of side events to showcase the experience of countries that have already committed to building climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems and invite other Member States, as well as non-state actors, to join ATACH.

The Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH) works to realize the ambition set at COP26 in Glasgow last year to build climate-resilient and sustainable health systems and promote the integration of climate change and health nexus into respective national, regional and global plans. ATACH is co-convened by the UK and Egypt. As part of this initiative, over 60 countries have already committed to building climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems, and among these, 20 countries have also set a target date to reach net- zero carbon emissions from their health systems before 2050.

Also, WHO, the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) and the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) are organizing the first ever Global Youth Forum on Health and Climate Change ahead of COP27 to support meaningful youth engagement in climate and health action.

The forum will take place over three days; The Global Youth Forum will be organized under the Patronage of Minister of Health and Population of Egypt Dr. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar and Minister of Youth and Sport of Egypt Dr. Ashraf Sobhy.

At another side event “The Global Stock Take: incorporating health metrics to meet the Paris goals”, WHO will launch a technical brief “Review of IPCC Evidence 2022: Climate Change, Health, and Wellbeing”. This policy brief will summarize and unpack the state of evidence on health outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s sixth assessment report (AR6). It will take a health perspective on the scope of the climate problem, outline observations and projections for physical and mental health, summarize knowledge on climate change impacts to environmental determinants of health (food, water, air), and provide discussion on actioning this evidence in adaptation and mitigation strategies and climate change negotiations.

Another side event on “Integrating nutrition and food security in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)” will be held to raise awareness of the links between climate change, health and nutrition. It will discuss concrete solutions that target both climate change adaptation and mitigation, with a particular focus on integrating nutrition and food security in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). In addition, the event will present an overarching UN-Nutrition narrative, emerging from the several COP27 events, on the need to reduce food systems’ impact on the environment and protect the food security and nutrition of populations, leaving no one behind.

Speakers from different constituencies (UN agencies, governments, academia), will present concrete examples and challenges of integrating nutrition in climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and strategies.

The World Health Organization will have a key role at the conference to highlight the health-environment nexus and critically, to ensure the inclusion of health content in the negotiations.

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