The COP28 President-Designate Dr. Sultan Al Jaber has vowed that COP28 will drive international action on climate and health, with the first-ever Health Day and climate-health ministerial at a COP acting as a ground-breaking opportunity to determine steps towards equitable, climate-resilient health systems and mobilize vital investment in the sector.
Speaking against the backdrop of the United Nations General Assembly and New York Climate Week, alongside Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President of Malawi, Dr. Al Jaber called on the international community to support the day and ministerial, which will be co-hosted with the WHO and several countries.
Al Jaber underscored the vital need to address the intricate relationship between climate change and health.
COP28, scheduled from November 30 to December 12, 2023, will take an unprecedented step by hosting its inaugural Health Day and climate-health ministerial, aimed at mobilizing investments for equitable, climate-resilient health systems.
The president-designate has called upon the international community to support this crucial initiative, recognizing the urgency of tackling climate change's profound impact on global health.
During his address, Al Jaber acknowledged and praised the efforts of the COP28 Champion Country Group on climate health, as well as the leadership of organizations like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Green Climate Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation, in their commitment to closing the climate-health financing gap at COP28.
He also emphasized the alarming risks that climate change poses to human health, including the emergence of new disease patterns, the expansion of disease vectors, and the resurgence of previously contained illnesses.
He pointed out that WHO statistics reveal seven million excess deaths annually due to air pollution, and vector-borne diseases like Malaria are spreading further due to rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns, disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities.
The COP28 Health Day, scheduled for December 3rd, will also address the fragility of global public health systems, exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the urgent need for transformative changes to make them resilient in the face of climate change.
Dr. Al Jaber declared, "COP28 is determined to shine a light on these issues and to bring together partners who can make a positive difference. We are determined to reverse these trends by bringing the world together around an inclusive action agenda centered on a just transition, fairer climate finance, and improved lives and livelihoods."
Finance will be a top priority on COP28's Health Day, as health crises attributed to climate change are projected to cost between $2-4 billion annually by 2030, exacerbating poverty in disadvantaged regions.
Dr. Al Jaber called for increased concessional funds for the Global South to reduce risks and attract private capital, urging governments to double adaptation finance by 2025 and generously contribute to replenish the Green Climate Fund.
Dr. Al Jaber also stressed the importance of viewing health investments as essential for climate resilience, citing the World Bank's finding that every dollar invested in building climate resilience yields an average benefit of four dollars. He called on financial institutions, including development banks, to prioritize climate-health investments and commended the leadership of organizations committed to closing the climate-health financing gap at COP28.
In his address, Dr. Al Jaber highlighted the UAE's commitment to safeguarding human health, with initiatives such as 'Reaching the Last Mile,' which has committed over $455 million to improve global health outcomes, particularly for vulnerable communities.
The UN event, 'Looking Forward Towards COP’s First-Ever Day of Health: Advancing A Bold Vision for Action, Equity, and Accountability,' featured prominent figures, including COP28 CEO Adnan Amin, WHO’s Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Health Dr. Maria Neira and moderated by WHO's Special Envoy on Climate Change and Health Vanessa Kerry.
The COP28 Presidency's Action Agenda outlines a science-based, action-oriented plan focused on addressing the climate crisis, with health as a central pillar.
This includes the creation of a Food Declaration to enhance food security and promote sustainable agricultural practices. Additionally, COP28 will feature the first-ever climate-Health Ministerial Declaration and a significant mobilization of nature-climate finance on a large scale.
The conference, set to convene over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth, and non-state actors, will take place at Expo City Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023.
COP28 UAE will deliver the first-ever Global Stocktake, as mandated by the Paris Climate Agreement, and lead a process for all parties to agree upon a clear roadmap to accelerate progress through a pragmatic global energy transition and inclusive climate action, adhering to the "leave no one behind" principle.