UK Met Office workshop on climate and health

UK Met Office workshop on climate and health



1 July 2016

Recognizing that climate, weather and water impact the health and well-being of people the world over, the Met Office (UK) organized a workshop yesterday to explore how the meteorological, health and other sectors can collaborate on addressing the challenge. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and World Health Organization (WHO) joint office for climate and health supported the event, attended by over 50 experts from across the Met Office and UK health community.

Opening the workshop, Ms Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office and recipient of this year’s IMO Prize, said “how to address the health impacts of climate variability and change is really the great gap that has not received adequate attention in the past, but will be a big issue for us all to contend with in a changing world. The UK Met Office already provides health services such as pollen, air quality and UV forecasts, supports the natural hazard partnership, and engages actively with the health research community – but there is so much more to be done, with much greater global reach.” In 2014 WMO produced a short video on how the UK uses climate services to support public health.

The workshop explored the scope of health needs for climate and weather services and opportunities for the Met Office to maximize the use of their capabilities to serve the health community in the UK and beyond. Discussions specifically focused on issues of airborne and vector-borne health risks, natural hazards impacts; the complexity of global climate risk scenarios; and how to build capacity for climate and health in developing countries. Workshop outcomes will make recommendations on the future directions for health services at the Met Office.

The timing of the workshop aligns with important developments on the international stage. Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement, governments are to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and address the adverse impacts of climate change. Next week in Paris, on 7-8 July, the WHO, working with the French and Moroccan governments, will convene Member States and experts to discuss how to “Build healthier societies through implementation of the Paris Agreement”. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas will speak at this event.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, also featured prominently in the workshop discussions. The Framework sets out a clear and compelling international agenda, with a strong focus on moving from understanding and managing risk to delivering effective responses, including for health protection.   

Having established a joint WHO/WMO Climate and Health office in 2014 under the auspices of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), WMO and WHO increasingly collaborate to promote climate services for improving public health. Joy Shumake-Guillemot, head of the joint office said, “it is tremendously important for leading met offices, such as in the UK, to share their exemplary collaborations of how they work hand in hand with the health sector. Today’s dialogue highlighted great enthusiasm and important opportunities for expanding climate services for health, which can really make a difference to people’s lives and well-being.”

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