Nigeria and 46 other countries have committed to the development of climate-smart healthcare in response to growing evidence of the impact of climate change on people’s health.
The 47 countries – which include some of those most vulnerable to the health harms caused by climate change, as well as some of the world’s biggest carbon emitters – pledged to develop climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26).
Forty-two of these countries have also committed to transforming their health systems to be more sustainable and low-carbon. Twelve have set a target date to reach net-zero carbon emissions on or before 2050.
Committing on behalf of Nigeria, the director of public health, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Dr. Morenike Alex-Okoh, said: “The health co-benefits from climate actions are well evidenced and offer a strong argument for transformative changes.”
The commitments were made as part of the COP26 Health Programme, a partnership between the UK government, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), climate champions and health groups, such as Health Care Without Harm.
“The future of health must be built on health systems that are resilient to the impacts of epidemics, pandemics and other emergencies, as well as the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and the increasing burden of various diseases related to air pollution and our warming planet,” said director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Health systems must be part of the solution, by reducing carbon emissions. We applaud those countries that have committed to building climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems and we hope to see many others following their lead soon.”
Other countries that have committed to achieving low-carbon, sustainable health systems include Argentina, Fiji, Malawi, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America and 36 others. Countries that have committed to enhancing the climate resilience of their health systems include Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Maldives, the Netherlands and 42 others.
“The message from WHO and health professionals around the globe is clear: climate change is a huge health challenge and we need to act now. I am pleased to see so many countries prioritising this issue through the COP26 Health Programme and their level of ambition. Strong leadership from the health sector is vital to make sure we protect our populations from the impacts of climate change by enhancing the climate resilience of health systems and by reducing emissions from the health sector,” said Minister for Europe and Americas in the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Wendy Morton.
The country commitments come off the back of a WHO survey, launched this week, which shows that the majority of countries now include health in their national climate plans.
“These government commitments exemplify the growing global health movement for climate action. Around the world doctors, nurses, hospitals, health systems and ministries of health are reducing their climate footprint, becoming more resilient and advocating for a just transition that puts health at the centre of a decarbonized civilization,” said international director of program and strategy of Health Care Without Harm Josh Karliner.
In addition to the national commitments, 54 institutions from 21 countries representing more than 14,000 hospitals and health centres have joined the UNFCCC Race to Zero and committed to achieving net-zero emissions.
A statement released by WHO said a record number of health leaders are participating at the COP26 UN climate conference and more than 45 million health professionals, representing two-thirds of the world’s health workforce, have signed a letter urging governments to take stronger action, noting that “hospitals, clinics and communities around the world have already been responding to the health harms caused by climate change”.
A list of all country commitments will be available on the WHO website, here.