Climate change and human health

Health events in the 2015 UN climate change conference of parties (COP21)

On 30 November 2015, leaders from around the world convened in Paris to discuss one of the most pressing issues of our time, climate change, and hopefully finalize a new climate agreement that can set the world on a healthier and lower carbon pathway to development.

For over a decade, the World Health Organization has been leading efforts in the global health sector to win greater recognition for health in climate assessment and agreements. A WHO delegation, led by WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, will be attending the United Nations Framework Conventional on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 21). WHO will be leading an official side-event on Climate and Health on 8 December 'Why the climate change agreement is critical to Public Health'.

The side event notes that while climate change presents important health risks, it can also stimulate strengthening of health systems and a transition to a greener, low-carbon economy. The side event promotes the message that a strong and effective international climate treaty is critical to public health.

WHO is also a co-sponsor or collaborator of a range of other events sponsored by countries, other UN agencies or civil society on themes related to health adaptation to climate change, health benefits of mitigating climate change, and health, air pollution and climate linkages.

In past climate talks, health was rarely referenced and health benefits of climate action were not recognized formally or monitored. Health systems have not been major beneficiaries of climate finance – either to improve their resilience to climate change or to put health facilities on a “green” and low-carbon trajectory. Nor did climate finance consider the health benefits of mitigation investments by sectors such as housing or transport.

More recently, however, the health impacts of climate change, and health benefits of improved adaptation and mitigation strategies, have received increased attention from climate and health experts as well as negotiators. Along with long-lived greenhouse gases, short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are now being discussed. These pollutants, including black carbon and ozone, are source of health-harmful air pollution. Due to their short-atmospheric lifetimes, actions to reduce SLCPs can rapidly improve health and reduce the pace of near-term climate change.

COP 21 will be held at the Parisien 'Le Bourget' conference site, comprising of three different areas: the official conference centre (blue zone) for only official, registered COP delegates; The Gallery, portraying business innovations and also open only to registered delegates; and the Climate Generations Areas (green zone) of civil society exhibits, open to the public. The green zone exhibits will be open to the public from 1-11 December, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, except Sundays. Additional exhibitions open to the public will take place in the Grand Palais near the Champs Elysées and at the Sustainable Innovation Forum, promoting innovative technologies and supported by UNEP, at the Stade de Paris.

Key COP 21 events organized by WHO and other partners, which highlight various aspects of health and climate themes, are noted here. These include technical side events, in the COP21 Blue Zone - open only to delegates; side events held at other Parisien sites and open to registered participants; and side events and cultural events in the COP21 Green Zone, open to the public – the latter including a WHO co-sponsored exhibit of air pollution, health and climate themes in the work of artists, entitled BREATHE.


Key health-related events at COP21

BREATHE: Air pollution, climate and health in the work of artists

1-11 December, 2015
Time: 10:30-7 pm daily except Sunday
Location: ICLEI TAP Pavilion in the Civil Society Sector
Organizers: WHO and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)
Description: Collection of international art works on themes of air pollution and climate vulnerability, human coping, and measuring or visualizing the “invisible” to make air pollution, climate and health impacts visible and sensory.

Healthy People, Healthy Planet

2 December, 2015
Time: 17:45
Location: Le Bourget COP21 Venue, U.S. Center, Hall 2B
Organizers: Government of the United States
Description: An interactive, multi-media event about U.S. efforts to protect health in the face of climate change, and avenues for new and innovative partnerships. Featuring remarks from USA Surgeon-General Vivek Murthy; Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Jimmy Kolker; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Senior Advisor John Balbus; U.S. National Institutes of Health Chief Scientist Rick Spinrad; U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change; and Karen Florini, U.S. Department of State.

Protecting health in a 2°C world: what are the costs and responsibilities?

2 December, 2015
Time: 16:30-18:00
Location: European Union Pavilion, Hall 2B, Room Luxembourg
Organizers: Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), WHO Regional Office for Europe, Department of Health of the United Kingdom and European Environment Agency
Description: Climate change threatens global health in the 21st century in many ways, from deaths and illness from more heatwaves and other extreme weather events, outbreaks of infectious diseases, food and water shortages, as well as long term effects and mental health issues. Strong climate mitigation policies must be accompanied by strong adaptation actions to protect public health and increase people’s resilience.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition “Cities” briefing on health impacts of short-lived climate pollutants

3 December, 2015
Time: 11:00-12:00
Location: International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), Transformative Action Programme (TAP) pavilion (Green Zone)
Organizers: Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Description: One-hour city briefing on urban health impacts of climate pollutants such as black carbon and ozone that also contribute to urban air pollution. Speakers include: Drew Kodjak, International Council on Clean Transportation; Fernando Haddad, Mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Dr Carlos Dora, Coordinator, World Health Organization The other speakers will be Drew Kodjak to the bus fleets and cleaner diesel options, and the Mayor of Sao Paulo, to give concrete examples of what cities can do to reduce air pollution and SLCPs.

International Conference on Climate Change and Healthcare

4 December, 2015
Time: 9:00-17:30
Location: Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou
Organizers: Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) with the French Hospital Federation
Description: Description: An all-day event that will focus on examples of hospitals and health systems working to reduce their carbon footprint. HCWH We will also announce a set of climate commitments by participants in the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge. Presenters include Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition LPAA Focus on SLCPs

4 December, 2015
Time: 15:00-18:30
Location: Le Bourget COP21 Venue (Blue Zone)
Organizers: Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), coordinating on behalf of Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA)
Description: The event will showcase the scientific imperative for rapid action to reduce emissions of these pollutants, including methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and tropospheric ozone, the multiple benefits of such actions, and how business, non-governmental organizations and governments at different levels have started to take action.

Breathe life: Cleaning the air, saving lives, and slowing near-term global warming

4 December, 2015
Time: 18:00-20:00
Location: Le Bourget COP21 Venue, CICERO - General Countries Pavilion (Blue Zone)
Organizers: WHO, Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Description:Air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths every year (WHO). A new WHO/CCAC Report, 'Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants' (WHO, 2015) highlights the broad opportunities for better health available through reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, which contribute significantly both to air pollution as well as to climate change. This event will present evidence about health risks and mitigation strategies, focusing on transport, household energy and urban health.

Climate and health summit

5 December, 2015
Time: 9:00-17:00
Location: Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel & Conference Center
Organizers: Joint collaboration of the WHO, the Climate and Health Alliance, the Health and Environment Alliance, Societé Francaise de Santé et Environnement, the German Cooperation Agency and Deutsche Gesellscaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Description: A high-profile all-day summit on health in the climate change agenda covering: health adaptation and community resilience; climate leadership in the health sector; energy and air pollution; and health sector engagement with food, energy, transport and other sectors. Open to registered participants.

Pathways to sustainable energy for a climate friendly world

7 December, 2015
Time: 18:30-20:00
Location: Le Bourget COP21 Venue (Blue Zone), Room 3
Organizers: United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in collaboration with other UN agencies, including WHO.
Description: The session will explore transformative approaches needed to address climate change and the numerous environmental, health and economic co-benefits that exist from mitigation and adaptation best practices in the energy sector, including sustainable and healthy solutions for household energy, household lighting and improved health sector energy access using renewable energy sources.

Effects of climate change on the social and environmental determinants of health in Africa: What can communities do to strengthen their climate resilience

8 December, 2015
Time: 14:00-15:30
Location: Le Bourget COP21 Venue, Salle 2 of the Africa Pavilion
Organizers: WHO Regional Office for Africa.
Description: Proven community-based interventions that local population in developing countries can scale-up and own in order to strengthen their resilience to climate-sensitive diseases and conditions, including in the context of climate-induced disasters will be outlined.

Why the climate change agreement is critical to public health

8 December, 2015
Time: 18:30-20:00
Location: Le Bourget COP21 Venue (Blue Zone), Room OR2
Organizers: WHO in collaboration with the UNECE, WMO, UNEP; UNICEF, Council on Biodiversity, and with the Support of the French Ministry of Health
Description: This event will review the evidence of health risks from climate change and from unsustainable development, as well as considering the groups most likely to bear the resulting disease burden, in terms of both communicable diseases, such as diarrhoea and vector-borne diseases, undernutrition, and also noncommunicable diseases related to air pollution, as well as biodiversity, air pollution and health linkages. The session will further consider how the transition to a low-carbon economy can stimulate stronger health systems and health gains. Speakers to include: Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General and Ms. Marisol Touraine, Ministry of Health, France. This event will be moderated by Dr. Richard Horton, Editor at The Lancet.

One UN solutions for cities and climate change. The new climate agreement and the new urban agenda

8 December, 2015
Time: 18:30-20:00
Location: Le Bourget COP21 Venue (Blue Zone), Room 4
Organizers: WHO, UN Habitat
Description: UNFCCC parties acknowledge that a growing number of cities take ambitious climate action & integrate climate change into urban policies. This event highlights action and solutions by the UN system to address climate change, presenting strategic & innovative approaches for the new urban agenda. The session also highlights the various challenges, opportunities and solutions related to cities and climate change in context of the new urban agenda that will be decided in Quito in October 2016 at the third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urbanization (Habitat III).

Evaluating the health and climate benefits of clean cooking solutions

8 December, 2015
Time: 9:00-16:30
Location: Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Bâtiment le France, Conference room 640
Organizers: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (Alliance), Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (FMSH)
Description: The ‘Evaluating the Health and Climate Benefits of Clean Cooking Solutions’ workshop aims to capitalize on the COP’s global climate-focus to present scientific evidence on the benefits of clean cooking with a focus on health, environment, and climate; present The Gold Standard Foundation’s results-based financing schemes for clean cooking solutions that relate to black carbon and health; engage project implementers, investors, and funders in the clean cooking sector; and formulate recommendations on combining financial tools with research based knowledge and pragmatic methodologies to maximize implementation and optimize impact.

Health central to climate change action

9 December, 2015
Time: 18:30-20:00
Location: Le Bourget COP21 Venue, Room 5
Organizers: Monaco, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)
Description: Event to be opened by His Serene Highness Albert II, Prince of Monaco. Other key speakers include: Marisol Touraine, Minister of Health, France and Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director of WHO Europe.