WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud was on a panel of a side event on Health Central to Climate Change Action. The event, moderated by Patrick Rampal, President of the Scientific Centre of Monaco, Bettina Menne, WHO Regional Office for Europe, and Génon Jensen, Executive Director, HEAL, highlighted that strong and effective action to limit climate change is needed to avoid risks to global health.
Prince Albert II, Monaco, opened the session by highlighting the gravity of climate change impacts on health, including communicable and non-communicable diseases, malnutrition, food insecurity, thermal stress and health problems related to air pollution. Ségolène Neuville, Minister of State for Disabled People and the Fight Against Exclusion, urged better regional sharing of health and climate data; and thorough preventative approaches.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director for Europe, WHO, stated many investments in climate mitigation are also investments in human health, noting the health co-benefits of addressing transboundary air pollution, transport, energy, buildings and agriculture.
David King, Special Representative for Climate Change, UK, presented on the health consequences of climate change, questioning human capability to survive as extreme weather conditions increasingly become the norm. He noted the 2003 summer heatwave across central Europe, with 65,000-70,000 deaths, as the first large-scale climate-related disaster in Europe.
On the health benefits of a strong Paris agreement, Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany, urged a strong climate agreement to minimize the loss of human life, saying that “climate action equals health protection.” Stana Božovć, State Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, Serbia, urged intersectoral coordination to deliver climate mitigation and human health improvements, such as integrating cycling and walking into urban transport plans. Gina Radford, UK, emphasized the crucial role of medical professionals in educating the public about climate change, with Rampal urging appropriate training of health professionals to deliver key changes in behavior.
Michel Jarraud, Secretary General, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), emphasized the aggravating role climate change plays on health, as storms, dust storms, wildfires, droughts, heat waves and floods intensify. He said that in order to deepen international cooperation to meet the challenges, WMO and WHO set up a joint office on climate and health, which is already having a considerable impact. “We have to reinforce the cooperation between our two discplines,” said Mr Jarraud.
Christian Friis Bach, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), noted the international, legally-binding framework provided by the Gothenburg Protocol to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution.
Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director, European Environment Agency (EEA), highlighted the need to address production and consumption systems, noting, inter alia, global obesity levels. Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), underscored the need to tap into scientific and local knowledge – including Indigenous and traditional knowledge – to help science emerge and develop at the necessary rate.
Jensen called for a preventative approach which includes a stronger focus on ending fossil fuel dependency, noting annual global fossil fuel subsidies far exceed annual global healthcare expenditure. The ensuing discussion focused on: the role of health professionals in encouraging nutritious, rather than industrial, food systems; and adequate education among medical students around the world.