What did Health Get from COP26?

COP26 has finished and what did health get out of it?

Well, it got many commitments.

COP26 panel sitting behind desks on stage. COP26 Logo in background

Remembering the WHO Special Report, noticeable pledges that could impact our everyday health were:

  • Cleaner air - 200 countries committed end fossil fuel subsidies and reduce the use of coal
  • Sustainable urban life - 109 regions, cities and states signed up to ‘Race to Resilience’, the UN backed global campaign to put people and nature at the forefront of a transformative change in global ambition for climate resilience.
  • Restoring nature - 33 countries pledged to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
  • Clean food - 45 countries endorsed the Sustainable Agriculture Policy Action Agenda for the transition to sustainable agriculture and food-systems.
  • Green universal healthcare - 50 countries pledged to develop plans to get to climate-resilient and/or low carbon, sustainable health systems (Country Commitments), 5 of whom are in the Asia Pacific. Indonesia and Fiji also committed to net zero health system by 2030 and 2045 retrospectively.

However, high income countries will delay their promise of an annual US$100 billion financing for climate mitigation and adaption measures. This finance is now slated for 2023, three years later than planned thereby delaying adaption measures in many low income countries.

Many pledges are made at the COP gatherings but there is clear history of failing. Even IF all pledges made at COP26 are honoured, the earth will still warm by 2.7°C around year 2100 – overshooting the Paris target of 1.5°C. .Highlighting the health impacts of breathing polluted air or exposure to toxic water has made climate chaos a real and personal danger.

The Nossal Institute is writing a series of thought pieces to coincide with COP26 to discuss developments in the area of health and climate change. We will be reflecting on our contribution and invite discussion from you on how health systems can enable genuine planetary health.

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Dr Gillian LĂȘ