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Climate funding for health needs to scale up tenfold

REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
People cool off in a fountain, during a heatwave in the Anhangabau Valley in the centre of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 16, 2023

Levels of climate funding directed towards global health must be multiplied tenfold in order to address the “devastating” risks associated with global warming, according to Maria Neira, director for environment, climate change and health at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Currently just 0.5 percent of climate funds are reaching the health system, despite pollution claiming the lives of an estimated seven million people a year.

“I will say at least that needs to be multiplied by 10,” Neira said at the inaugural Health Day at Cop28 on Sunday.

“We need massive investment to prepare our health systems to be climate resistant to respond to safe lives.”

Over 90 percent of countries include health priorities in their Nationally Determined Contributions – the self-defined national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015.

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Cop28 director-general ambassador Majid Al Suwaidi said health-related costs associated with climate change would reach between $2-4 billion annually by 2030.

“As silos between health and climate leaders continue to inhibit progress, climate change is already posing a dramatic health risk, increasing the risk of deaths from extreme weather events and triggering a surge in infectious diseases like dengue and cholera, which endanger millions and threaten to overwhelm our health, workforce and health infrastructure,” he said.

Director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Saturday said discussing action on climate change without addressing the issue of fossil fuels was “like talking about lung cancer without mentioning tobacco”.

“What we really want to talk about is a clean energy future, because that will provide the energy that populations around the world need for many things including to maintain good health,” said Diarmaid Campbell-Lendrum, head of climate and health at the WHO.

Health ministers from around the world endorsed the Cop28 Declaration on Climate Health, which had the support of 123 countries, although notable absences from the signatory list included India and China.

Ambassador Suwaidi said: “We hope they’ll consider joining later.”

“The impacts of climate change are already at our door. They have become one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century. Governments have now rightly recognised health as a crucial element of climate action,” said Cop28 president Sultan Al Jaber.

A raft of health-related funding announcements were made on Saturday including a $300 million commitment by the Global Fund to prepare health systems, $100 million by the Rockefeller Foundation to scale up climate and health solutions and an announcement by the UK government of up to £54 million ($68 million).

Collectively, finance announcements from governments, development banks, multilateral institutions, philanthropies and NGOs committed to dedicate $1 billion to address the growing needs of the climate-health crisis.

The first of the Cop28 thematic days, Health Day will see the unveiling of the Cop28 UAE Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace Charter.

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