Africa: WHO Director-General's Opening Remarks At Virtual Event On Climate Change and Its Link to Health, Labour and Human Rights

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Your Excellency Dr A. K. Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh,

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Let me start by thanking the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh and the Climate Vulnerable Forum for organizing the webinar on this critical issue.

Climate change and health has been one of my priorities since I took office.

For nearly a decade, WHO has worked with the government of Bangladesh on climate change and health and implemented three projects there.

These three projects not only produced important data on the interlinkage of the two sectors, but also the development and implementation of comprehensive plans to strengthen the resilience of health systems to climate change.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the intimate and delicate relationship between people and planet, which we can only address with a "One Health" approach.

Recently WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organisation for Animal Health and the UN Environment Programme joined forces to establish a One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, and I would especially like to thank Her Excellency Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her leadership of that group.

Of course, the need for a "One Health" approach goes far beyond antimicrobial resistance.

Earlier this year, WHO released a manifesto for a healthy and green recovery from COVID-19, calling on governments to protect nature, support clean energy sources, reduce pollution, and build sustainable food systems and healthier cities.

We have already seen promising results where governments have adopted these prescriptions: more accessible urban spaces; cleaner air; more resilient food systems; and healthier lives.

Our manifesto highlights that investments that help to prevent disease, protect health, and mitigate climate change will also contribute to the much needed economic and social recovery from the pandemic.

Let me present you with four pressing priorities for the intersection of climate change and health:

First: the health benefits of climate action as the most effective tool to secure ambitious commitments for change.

WHO has a body of solid evidence on the health gains that arise from ambitious climate actions, under the COP26 priority themes of nature, adaptation and resilience, zero-carbon transport, energy and finance.

These can bring huge health gains, reduced health care costs, more resilient food systems and more liveable cities.

Second: scaling up finance for health resilience and adaptation.

The majority of countries have identified the health sector as one of the most vulnerable to climate impacts.

Despite this, however, a meagre 0.5% of multilateral climate finance currently goes directly to health protection.

WHO has significantly scaled up its support to countries in this field, with the help of donor governments, but a large finance gap remains.

Third: support for small island developing states and other vulnerable countries.

WHO launched a special initiative on climate change and health in small island developing states in 2017, aimed at providing in-country support and capacity building to some of the most climate-vulnerable nations in the world.

In 2021 we revitalised this initiative, including through a leadership group and a planned virtual health summit in June.

Fourth: a COP26 special report on climate change and health.

WHO will produce a special report on climate change and health by COP26 that will provide an overview of the global knowledge, resources and tools on the interconnections between climate change and human health.

It will also present a series of recommendations so that health and well-being benchmarks become an integral part of the UN climate negotiations going forward.

I would very much welcome your thoughts on the best way to implement the calls to action from this report.

By the end of this year, countries are due to submit their new commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement, in advance of the 2021 UN Climate Conference in the UK. These are the commitments we make to protect the planet, and its people.

The leaders of island nations and other vulnerable countries have been very clear: the decisions we make this year may determine whether their children will have a place they can call home.

Thank you once again, Your Excellency, for your leadership.

WHO remains committed to working with you and

I thank you.

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