Not just talking about the weather...

Impressions from the Climate and Health Summit in Paris, 5 December 2015

Logo Climate and Health Summit 2015

This year’s Climate and Health Summit took place in parallel to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris. It rallied the support of participating health experts, scientists, government and civil society representatives to build greater momentum for the international community’s health sector response to current and future effects of climate changes.

Health and climate change experts meet in parallel to UN Climate Change Conference

On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the global programme Adaptation to Climate Change in the Health Sector contributed to this year’s Climate and Health Summit that took place parallel to the negotiations of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris. The one-day event on 5 December 2015 was organized by the Global Climate and Health Alliance and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and other partners. It brought together public health experts, government representatives and policy makers as well as scientists and representatives from other sectors and aimed to rally greater commitment towards a comprehensive health sector response to climate change.

This year’s summit focused on climate change adaptation in practice and included contributions from food and energy expers, fields which have also begun to feel and to respond to the impacts of climate change. In addition, government representatives from various countries, including the minister of health of the small island state Tuvalu, shared their perspectives on the challenges brought about by climate change and first successful adaptation measures they have developed for the health sector.

High time for health experts to get involved in climate change politics

Even though the climate change impact on human health could be dramatic health experts are not yet sufficiently involved in climate change politics. Numerous speakers stressed the need for the health sector to actively participate in discussions of climate change mitigation measures and proposed to mainstream climate change into all health sector activities. In her opening speech Dr. Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Public Health and the Environment Department, named three priority areas for action:

  • Reducing the health sector’s carbon foot print
  • supporting countries in increasing the their health systems resilience against climate change
  • monitoring and documentation of the positive effects which climate change mitigation measures in other sectors have on human health, in order to grant additional support to adaptation efforts in general.

Dr. Maria Neira, WHO

Summit delegates recognized that, at this point, the motivation to move from evidence to action is crucial. A panel of experts and communication professionals therefore debated the question how a complex issue like climate change and health could be communicated in a way that would motivate different stakeholders to agree on necessary response measures and to implement them.

All together now!

To protect human health from negative impacts of climate change, health sector initiatives must go hand in hand with other sectors’ commitments, said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, who leads the climate change and health team at WHO headquarters. He added that it is also crucial for post-2015 solutions to ensure an alignment of different but closely related political processes such as national climate change adaptation planning and the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The conference ended with a performance by the British spoken word poet Sophia Walker. She appealed to the audience to recognize the magnitude of the challenge: “In the post-2015 era, we are facing interconnected risks of unprecedented proportions. When we talk about climate change and health we are not just talking about the weather”.

by Sophia Owsianowski

December 2015

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