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.