Key facts

What is the impact of climate on this area?

Who/what is at risk?

  • Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C, and increase further with 2°C.
  • Poverty and disadvantage are expected to increase in populations as global warming increases; limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared with 2°C, could significantly reduce the number of people both exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty.
  • All populations will be affected by climate change, however the most marginalised and vulnerable members of society will disproportionately bear the burden – children, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
  • This contributes to the widening gap in health outcomes between the socially advantaged versus the disadvantaged communities in our population.

What actions need to be taken to minimise the risk?

  • The WHO Executive Board endorsed a new work plan on climate change and health. One element of this work plan was support for implementation of the public health response to climate change, to assist countries to build capacity to reduce health vulnerability to climate change and promote health while reducing carbon emissions.
  • A combination of Government policies (cleaner energy systems, promoting active travel) and individual choices (encouraging ‘green’ choices within households, such as recycling and eating less meat) can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to improvements in health.
  • As countries implement their Covid-19 recovery measures, policies to protect the climate must be consistent with the aims of the Paris Agreement.
  • Health and climate should be at the core of all policies. 
  • Health equity must be an explicit policy goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, as stated by Professor Sir Michael Marmot. Otherwise, there is a risk that the health benefits of climate policies – such as cleaner air, healthier diets, and lower energy bills – will be unequally distributed.

Conclusion

Achieving net zero emissions is the most important global health intervention, now and for decades to come. COP26 is a crucial time to drive action and mobilise knowledge on the impact of climate on health. It is crucial that clear measures are implemented to protect the temperature of the Earth – this is the only way to prevent the next public health crisis and protect our population.