Climate change and human health

What is the "Friends of Public Health" Initiative

As the UNFCCC is an intergovernmental process, improved representation of health in new agreement, decision-making, resource allocation and outreach activities can only come through national delegations incorporating these viewpoints into their own statements and negotiating positions. This therefore requires participants with an interest in health to promote health messages within their national delegations and aligned blocs, either directly (for national delegates), or indirectly (for participants of observer organizations).

In order to further facilitate this process, WHO has established an informal contact group within the UNFCCC process, known as the "Friends of Public Health". This has the following objectives:

  • Exchange information, raise awareness and public understanding of health consequences of climate change and the role of the health sector in adaptation and mitigation efforts.
  • Discuss specific proposals on representation on health within negotiating texts of the UNFCCC.
  • Share information on health events organized under the UNFCCC framework.
  • Spark commitment among parties, international organizations, donors, civil society, youth, businesses and local communities to collaborate on putting health at the heart of the climate change agenda.
  • Promote the assessment of health risks in different segments of populations that are already vulnerable owing to geography, gender, age, indigenous or minority status and disability, and consideration of how they can contribute to efficient and equitable responses to climate change.

The group is formed based on an invitation to all national delegations and other participating organizations to participate in open and non-binding discussions on the representation of health within the UNFCCC negotiations. The group is not intended to function as a 'bloc' or to support the position of one or more of the existing blocs within the climate negotiations, and will therefore not make submissions as a group. Instead, it discusses potential proposals for health-related negotiating text or other initiatives, that participating parties will consider advancing on their own behalf.

Meetings of this group have been held at UNFCCC preparatory meetings in Bonn and in Tianjin, and it is planned to convene these meetings at least twice at CoP-16 (at the beginning of the CoP, and at the beginning of the high-level segment). At each meeting WHO staff will take responsibility for providing a brief analysis of the current state of health representation in the negotiating text, and proposals for possible changes.

If you would like to communicate with WHO on the issue or to discuss how your delegation can better represent health concerns in the negotiations and national climate policies, please contact us at carbonfootprint@who.int