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COP28: Addressing health inequalities must be at the heart of climate action

Why the first COP Health Day should aim for health equity and reflect the principles and goals of a just transition

The major international climate conference, which annually brings together world leaders, activists, business and media, got off to a good start this week. COP28 culminated in the creation of a hard-earned Loss and Damage Fund – helping the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries pay for the irreversible impacts of the climate crisis.

But behind a series of high-profile pledges and pledges, there is a subtle but significant shift in some of the focus at this year’s climate summit that, if done right, could have significant consequences for us all.

That's because on Sunday, COP28 will host its first-ever conference COP Health DayA record number of health ministers will come together for a dedicated meeting to discuss the link between climate and health.

Nearly a decade ago, the Paris Agreement committed countries to consider the right to health in all climate action – and while it’s a shame it’s taken so long to emerge, this year’s developments could be a game-changer for everyone around the world people make a difference.

Maybe it’s not always true, but the climate crisis is fundamentally a health crisis — and its impact on human health, from extreme weather events to food insecurity, is overwhelmingly negative. This year’s Health Day is a long-term opportunity to place health more firmly on the climate agenda.

The most important crisis that must be addressed is avoidable disparities in health outcomes between different groups and populations—also known as health equity.

Think about this. What good does it do to treat people's illnesses and then return them to live, play, and work in the conditions that made them sick? The quality of the air we breathe, our local environment, our homes, our jobs and our education – Play a greater role in determining our health and well-being than access to and use of health care services.

It’s not news that certain groups in society systematically experience greater health barriers.Just think about it Coronavirus pandemic has disproportionate impact on minority communities.

Climate change adds new vulnerabilities; it exacerbates existing health inequalities and is arguably creating new ones.this Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates About 3.5 billion people (nearly half of humanity) live in areas highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Mosquito-borne climate-sensitive diseases such as dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fever, with particularly severe impacts on low- and middle-income countries. There remains considerable uncertainty in the health and scientific communities about how these viruses will respond to climate change, but the trend is not optimistic. Global dengue cases have increased eight-fold since 2000, with a record 4.2 million cases recorded by 2022, and are increasingly geographically distributed.

Focusing on health equity can help achieve a just transition to a more sustainable world.

However Currently only 2% of multilateral adaptation finance and 0.5% of climate finance overall are spent on health protection and improvement. Achieving health equity requires that all members of society receive equal attention. We need urgent action to address structural barriers to health, including racism, poverty and discrimination, in policy design, targeting and implementation.

That’s why approving funding arrangements for loss and damage is a step forward in redressing historical injustices and providing resources where needed. But there is still much work to be done. New analysis from Carbon Brief The UK ranks fourth on the list of countries with the largest historical emissions, behind the US, China and Russia. While the United Arab Emirates and Germany immediately announced contributions of US$100 million each to the Loss and Damage Fund, the UK and the US fell far short of this target, pledging contributions of £60 million and US$17.5 million respectively.

Health inequalities are a reality in the UK too.according to Office of Health Improvement and Disparitiespeople at the mostpoor communities in England,certain ethnic minorities andsocially excluded groups (e.g. vulnerable immigrants or homeless people) developmentHad multiple long-term health conditions 10 to 15 years agoThey experience poor health longer and die earlier than the poorest communities.

That’s why, at NEF, we’re working on a project to apply a health equity perspective to UK climate policy and action.go through Strategically and intentionally examine its impact on underserved and historically marginalized populations and communitieswe will develop recommendations in early 2024 to inform better climate policy development and implementation.

Done right, UK climate action can and must help us achieve fairer health outcomes – from urgent investment to retrofitting homes in the most deprived areas; to removing dirty fuel-burning vehicles from our towns and cities.

Global leaders at COP28 have the power and control to remove systemic barriers and prioritize health equity. The decisions they make over the next two weeks will help shape the distribution of money, power, resources and health outcomes at global, national and local levels – let’s hope they take control of this crisis and make decisions that will help improve The world that determines the lives of people all over the world.

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