Over 120 Countries Back Declaration To Prepare Healthcare Systems To Cope With Climate Impacts

By Outlook Planet Desk December 02, 2023

COP 28: The climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation

Over 120 Countries Back Declaration To Prepare Healthcare Systems To Cope With Climate Impacts
Declaration covers a range of action areas at the nexus of climate and health, including building more climate-resilient health systems, strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration to reduce emissions and maximise the health benefits of climate action. Shutterstock

Today, the COP28 Presidency joined with the World Health Organisation to announce a new ‘COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health’ (the Declaration) to accelerate actions to protect people’s health from growing climate impacts. The Declaration was announced at the World Climate Action Summit, where world leaders have gathered for the start of COP28.

Signed by 123 countries, the Declaration is announced one day ahead of the first ever Health Day at a COP and marks a world first in acknowledging the need for governments to protect communities and prepare healthcare systems to cope with climate-related health impacts such as extreme heat, air pollution, and infectious diseases.

The Declaration was developed with the support of a number of ‘country champions', including Brazil, Malawi, the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Kenya, Fiji, India, Egypt, Sierra Leone, and Germany. This joint action comes as annual deaths from polluted air hit almost 9 million and as 189 million people are exposed to extreme weather-related events each year.

“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 Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. He continued, “the Declaration sends a strong signal that we must reduce global emissions and work together to strengthen our health systems."

“The climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation. “WHO thanks the UAE for making health a key priority in its COP28 Presidency and welcomes this declaration, which emphasises the need to build climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems to protect the health of both planet and people."

“Climate change is increasingly impacting the health and wellbeing of our communities,” said Lazarus Chakwera, President of Malawi, one of the first countries to endorse the Declaration. “Malawi has experienced these impacts first-hand: extreme weather events have displaced tens of thousands of our citizens and sparked infectious disease outbreaks that have killed thousands more.

This year, at COP28, we are calling for a bolder path forward that prioritises investments in health and wellbeing, ensures a just transition away from fossil fuels, and creates a healthier future for all of us.”

The Declaration covers a range of action areas at the nexus of climate and health, including building more climate-resilient health systems, strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration to reduce emissions and maximise the health benefits of climate action, and increasing finance for climate and health solutions.

Signatories have also committed to incorporate health targets in their national climate plans and improving international collaboration to address the health risks of climate change, including at future COPs.

It is also recognised that finance will be a significant driver of the Declaration’s success.

As such, the COP28 Presidency joined with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the Green Climate Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Health Organisation to unveil a set of ten principles to bolster financing for climate and health, mobilise new and additional finance, and foster innovation with transformative projects and new multisector approaches.

Endorsed by over 40 financing partners and civil society organisations, the COP28 Guiding Principles for Financing Climate and Health Solutions signal the growing collaboration across funders and the momentum to support climate and health solutions in a sustainable manner.

It also welcomed the financial announcements made by a wide range of stakeholders, including governments, development banks, multilateral institutions, philanthropies, and NGOs, to expand their investments in climate and health solutions. Collectively, these partners have committed to dedicate USD 1 billion to address the growing needs of the climate-health crisis.

Speaking on the climate health principles, Mafalda Duarte, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund, said: “These guiding principles come at a pivotal moment in our fight against climate change. By creating and implementing this holistic and more equitable framework, we will find whole-of-economy benefits for prioritising health in climate financing.”

The COP28 Presidency recognises that reducing the health impacts of climate change will require action across all of society, including rapid and large-scale action to decarbonize energy systems to reduce emissions by at least 43 percent over the next seven years. 

To this end, the announcement of the Declaration at the World Climate Action Summit on December 2nd was just one of a number of announcements from the COP28 Presidency, which recognised the need to reduce the health impacts of climate change beyond the health sector and included new initiatives to drive rapid decarbonization to reduce emissions by at least 43 percent over the next seven years to keep 1.5C within reach.

On 3 December – COP28’s Health Day, - will see the first ever climate and health Ministerial at a COP. Ministers of health and senior health delegations from over 100 countries are expected to attend. The COP28 Presidency will also gather climate and global health financiers, development banks, countries, philanthropies, and the private sector to respond to the country's priorities and needs raised at COP28 and scale up financial interventions that will protect and promote human health.

New initiatives and financial commitments for climate and health:

The Asian Development Bank announced the launch of a new Climate and Health Initiative, dedicating an initial allocation of $7 million in seed funding over the coming year to jump-start i) knowledge generation, 2) innovative financing, 3) country capacity building, 4) strategic partnerships, 5) incubating innovations, and 6) high-level advocacy on climate change and health.

The Initiative, housed at ADB, is expected to catalyse at least $10 for each $1 of seed investments through co-financing and co-investments. The Initiative is one of ADB’s priorities under its 2023–2030 Climate Change Action Plan, that will provide $120 million in climate finance. In addition, ADB has committed to a target of at least 15 percent of its annual health portfolio to support climate-focused projects, a commitment which will mobilise significant resources for climate and health actions in the coming years.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced $57.95 million towards climate and health. This includes a $50 million investment over the coming four years to support climate-focused malaria efforts to better understand, detect, and respond to changing vector habitat and endemicity ranges and to develop new tools and strategies to respond to climate-related changes and disruptions in the malaria response.

In addition, the Foundation will contribute $7.95 million to a Grand Challenges Request for Proposal focused on transdisciplinary approaches to better adapt to, mitigate, or reverse the combined deleterious effects of climate change on health and agriculture. This includes early warning and disease surveillance to respond to climate-event-driven surges in malaria and other vector-borne diseases, as well as improved mapping of expanded vector ranges and vector-borne disease transmission.

Wellcome Trust announced it will be spending £100 million in the coming year alone supporting research to understand and address the climate change health crisis, especially to support actions that benefit the most affected people and communities. The aim of this investment is to put health research at the heart of climate decision-making, building momentum for healthy global climate mitigation and adaptation action.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, Clean Air Fund, and C40 Cities announced an initial eleven cities to join the Breathe Cities Initiative, an ambitious new $30 million clean air initiative to accelerate progress, break down barriers to action, and ensure communities around the world have access to clean air.

The selected cities will receive support to enhance air quality data, community engagement, and policy development with an aim of reducing air pollution 30 percent by 2030 and preventing nearly 40,000 premature deaths in selected cities.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria announced grant funding of at least $500 million to support low- and middle-income countries in addressing health impacts of climate change over 2024–2026. Included in this, the Global Fund will provide at least US$200 million in grant funding to significantly reduce the risk of child mortality from malaria in climate-vulnerable countries where seasonal patterns are already being disrupted by climate change.

It will provide $295 million in grants to enhance disease surveillance and early warning systems, which will help countries integrate climate data and better detect and manage climate-sensitive disease outbreaks and health emergencies triggered by climate hazards. Additionally, the Global Fund announced an initial capital of $12 million for an Emergency Fund that will provide rapid and flexible funding to respond to the increasingly frequent and severe climate emergencies damage to healthcare systems and the health of communities.

Recognising the extensive overlap of vulnerability to disease and climate change, the Global Fund will continue to invest at the intersection of climate and health in the years ahead. As part of this, it also announced a strategic partnership with the Green Climate Fund and a new Memorandum of Understanding with the World Bank to build climate resilience of health systems in the most climate-vulnerable countries with high disease burden.

The Rockefeller Foundation announced at COP28 a $100 million commitment to advancing climate and health solutions, re-imagining the Foundation’s 110-year legacy in global health for the climate era. This announcement, the first by the Foundation on climate and health, advances the Guiding Principles for Financing Climate and Health Solutions, which the Foundation co-convened together with the COP28 Presidency, the World Health Organisation, the Green Climate Fund, and the Global Fund.

This announcement is part of the Foundation’s Climate Strategy, announced in September, to mobilise $1 billion over the coming five years to advance the global climate transition and help ensure everyone can participate in it. The investment will focus on community-driven innovations in low- and middle-income countries that either mitigate or enable people to adapt to the effects of climate change on their health.

The UK will provide up to £18 million to support partner countries to assess vulnerability, identify priority actions, and support planning, with a view to mobilising the necessary financial and expert resources to increase investments to adapt and strengthen health systems to better cope with the impacts of climate change.

This is the first such climate-health programme announced by a G7 country. Furthermore, 20 percent of the £80 million the UK pledged to the Global Financing Facility in October, that operates in about 40 countries, will be spent on climate and health.

Recognising the fast-evolving agenda and need for a stronger evidence base of what works to address the accelerating threats from climate change to health, we are also designing a new £20 million research programme that will build on UK experience and beyond. This is in addition to the existing £20 million action-oriented climate and health research programme launched at COP26 through the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Projects under this programme will begin work in 2024 and will aim to generate evidence to strengthen health service delivery and resilience in low and middle-income countries in the context of extreme weather events through equitable partnerships between leading UK research institutions and partners in Africa, South and Southeast Asia. We will continue to encourage and work with partners internationally to build a healthier future for all.

Foundation S is committed to raising awareness of the impact of climate change on health and to accelerating global financial support for climate adaptation in countries where climate change is already a reality.  Foundation S has pledged $42 million through 2030 to support community-led adaptation solutions to climate change, following the “Time to Adapt” Report issued by Foundation S’s think-tank, The Collective MindS Climate Council.

This funding will go to local organisations and social innovators on the frontlines of the climate crisis, creating sustainable solutions leveraging public-private partnerships with local actors. Building on this, Foundation S is also pleased to support a new public-private effort to strengthen community resilience against the health implications of climate change, in collaboration with the Global Grand Challenges Africa, Rwanda, Brazil, Ethiopia, and India, alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome.

The results of this work will help facilitate the much-needed evidence and data required to support innovative approaches for climate adaptation at the local level - and address the critical intersection of climate change, health, agriculture, and gender. For more information, contact:

AVPN and Bayer Foundation announced a partnership to tackle the intersectionality of climate and health. This partnership will build the ecosystem infrastructure for Asian funders of all types to find collaborative pathways to developing their intersectional climate-health strategies, ensuring the agendas are locally owned and led while enhancing the likelihood of successful capital deployment.

The programme will increase awareness of climate and health among social investors in Asia, build a shared understanding of principles for financing climate and health solutions to enable a catalytic role for capital from philanthropy to blended finance, spotlight local innovative solutions and mobilise capital into investable projects marketplace for Asia, amplify Asian-led climate and health initiatives, and enhance visibility for pathfinder partners and their work to attract future collaborations.

The Global Grand Challenges network of partners will announce a joint funding call of approximately $12 million to support innovators addressing the critical intersection of climate change, health, agriculture, and gender.

The partners include Science for Africa Foundation—Grand Challenges Africa; Grand Challenges Rwanda; Grand Challenges Brazil; Grand Challenges Ethiopia; and Grand Challenges India, in partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, Foundation S—The Sanofi Collective S, Rockefeller Foundation, and Pasteur Network. This funding follows a 2022 climate and health call for applications by Grand Challenges Canada and the South African Medical Research Council—Grand Challenges South Africa.

The Green Climate Fund announced the launch of a $1.5 million Project Preparation Facility (PPF) grant, with matching funding of $1.55 million from the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organisation.

The PPF grant will support preparation of a $122 million climate and health global programme with the aim to develop and operationalise a multi-partner Climate and Health Co-Investment Facility. This facility will leverage public and private capital to promote climate-resilient, sustainable, and low-carbon health systems, assisting countries to implement the health commitments made at COP26 and through the WHO's Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health.

The Global Environment Facility announced a $17.85 million partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organisation to increase health system resilience in Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

The project is the largest GEF investment to date, designed to prepare national and local health systems for climate change and enhance the ability of health systems to respond to climate health risks. The initiative will be supported by co-financing from the four partner countries, all of which are already experiencing significant climate-related health impacts.

As part of its $35 million investment in the Africa Minigrids Programme, which is designed to accelerate decentralised off-grid electrification in Sub-Saharan African countries, the GEF is also supporting the provision of modern and reliable clean electricity services to more than 100 rural clinics across 15 African countries.

A groundbreaking set of new commitments from Evidence Action, totaling $55 million, will bring safe drinking water to tens of millions, building climate resilience and improving child health. This historic investment by governments including India and Malawi, private philanthropies including the Philanthropy Asia Alliance, and NGO Evidence Action will fund transformative chlorination interventions to make water from any source safe to drink.

With Nobel Laureate and University of Chicago economist Michael Kremer’s research showing chlorine treatment can reduce child mortality by 25 percent, tens of thousands of lives will be saved, including through the commitment of India's Jal Jeevan Mission to rapidly scale up safe tap water using evidence-backed chlorination methods.