WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas participated in the Second Global Conference on Health and Climate: “Building Healthier Societies through implementation of the Paris Agreement,” hosted by the World Health Organization and Government of France on July 7.
Implementation of the Paris Agreement will have a major public health policy impact as countries take action. It states that “the right to health”, will be central to the actions taken. This includes reductions in the more than 7 million deaths worldwide that are attributed to air pollution every year.
“The Paris Agreement is an excellent agreement but we have to implement it,” said Mr Taalas. He said the need for urgent action was underlined by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, record temperatures, melting Arctic sea ice and glaciers, unusual tropical cyclone activity and extreme weather like heatwaves and flooding.
“There is a clear need to change our behavior,” said Mr Taalas. “If we do not do anything on climate change we will see temperature increases of 8-9 degrees Celsius which would persist for thousands of years. That is not a planet I wish to leave to my children and grandchildren,” he said.
“We need to take concrete action and we can do this by forging partnerships. By working together we can reach more people than by reinventing the wheel.,” he said. “I see many opportunities for cooperating between the climate community and health community. I am a strong believer in these partnerships.”
WMO and WHO set up a joint office for climate and health under the Global Framework for Climate Services in 2014 to intensify operational collaboration to meet the growing challenges.
The office has forged close partnerships between the climate and health sectors in a number of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, as well as supporting initiatives such as the recently launched Global Heat Health Information Network to accelerate the use of heat-health guidance and action plans, particularly in South Asia.
Mr Taalas said WMO would work with WHO to strengthen cooperation between the climate and health communities in areas such as:
- Air quality observations to improve the monitoring of the impact of pollutants on human health
- Better weather services to forecast and help in the health management of heatwaves, tropical cyclones and coastal storms
- More climate services such as seasonal outlooks which can help predict the malaria, meningitis and dengue fever season as well as outbreaks of other climate-sensitive diseases
He said collaboration was vital to the success of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development agenda. The Paris Agreement sets ambitious aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming well below 2°C, and commits countries to strengthen adaptation.
Mr Taalas joined a top-level panel at the Global Conference on Health and Climate conference.
Planned specific outputs of the conference include:
1. A global strategy for health resilience investments
2. Guidance on the role of the health sector in climate change mitigation
3. An economic approach to assess and value the health “co-benefits” of climate change mitigation measures, as well as savings from investments in climate resilient health systems
4. A co-ordinated plan for international monitoring of progress in health adaptation and mitigation at country level
5. A global platform to engage with civil society, scientists, and the wider global health community to promote action at the health and climate nexus
Details of the Conference are available here