Transformational change in global health systems to protect both people and the planet

Addressing health is critical for climate adaptation and resilience

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragile relationship between humans, animals, and the environment. More frequent extreme weather events risk food security and increase food, water, and vector-borne diseases, as well as threatening healthcare systems when they are most needed. The recent WHO Special Report on Climate Change and Health states that “climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity”.

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Global leaders have begun to prioritize health in adaptation and resilience efforts, but implementation has been hindered so far by barriers including a lack of funding, the impact of COVID-19 and insufficient human resource capacity. The public health benefits of implementing ambitious climate actions far outweigh the costs, however, most climate and health decision-making processes are disconnected do not currently account for the economic and social impacts of climate change on health outcomes.

Countries must take greater steps towards building health systems that are resilient to growing climate impacts, low carbon, and more sustainable. Human health and equity must be central to all climate change adaptation and resilience actions, to limit global warming and avert the impending health catastrophe.

Health initiatives to deliver a climate resilient world

At COP26, health was selected as one of the three priority science areas for the conference by the UK government. The COP26 Health Programme enables transformational change to protect the health of people and the planet. Initiatives under the COP26 Health Programme include:

  • Building global climate resilient health systems.
  • Developing low carbon sustainable health systems.
  • Adaptation research for health.
  • Inclusion of health priorities in Nationally Determined Contributions.
  • Elevating the voice of health professionals as advocates for stronger ambition on climate change.

Building climate resilient and sustainable low carbon health systems

As part of the COP26 Health Programme, 56 countries including Malawi, Spain, Indonesia, Morocco, and the US, committed to developing climate-resilient health systems which can withstand the impacts of climate change, are low carbon and more sustainable. This includes conducting climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessments and improving access to climate change funding for health.

Raising the voice of health professionals as advocates for climate action

At COP26, a ‘Healthy Climate Prescription’ letter signed by more than 460 health organizations globally was delivered to climate negotiators. The letter called for stronger action on climate change to protect people’s health, including increased finance from high-income countries to support low-income countries, and increased investment in adaptation and resilience. The signatories represent more than 46 million health workers across over 100 countries.



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AAC Countries involved in the workstream

  • Argentina
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Colombia
  • Egypt
  • Fiji
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Peru
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America


If you're interested in learning more or getting involved with the Health workstream, contact Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum and Elena Villalobos Prats.


Cover image credit: UNDP Climate Flickr


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