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Friday, September 22, 2023

COP28 President-designate prioritizes health in climate talks

Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and President-designate of COP28, has pledged that COP28 will lead global efforts on climate and health.

It will feature the first-ever Health Day and a climate-health ministerial at a COP, offering a groundbreaking opportunity to advance equitable, climate-resilient health systems and mobilize essential investments in the sector.

Speaking during the United Nations General Assembly and New York Climate Week, alongside Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President of Malawi, Dr. Al Jaber called on the international community to support the Health Day and ministerial, which will be co-hosted with WHO and several countries.

He emphasized the crucial link between climate change and health, stating that this connection must now become a specific focus of the COP process. Dr. Al Jaber underscored the goal of building resilient and equitable health systems capable of withstanding the impacts of climate change.

He expressed gratitude to country champions including Brazil, the UK, the USA, the Netherlands, Kenya, Fiji, India, Egypt, Sierra Leone, and Germany for leading climate health discussions at COP28.

Dr. Al Jaber highlighted climate change risks to human health, including shifting disease patterns, expanding vectors, and the resurgence of previously contained diseases. Air pollution alone causes seven million excess deaths annually, and vector-borne diseases like malaria are expanding due to rising temperatures and changing weather patterns.

COP28’s Health Day, scheduled for December 3, will also address the fragility of global public health systems exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent need for transformative changes to adapt these systems to climate change.

Finance will be a key focus on COP28’s Health Day, as health crises attributed to climate change are estimated to cost between $2-4 billion annually by 2030, exacerbating poverty. Dr. Al Jaber called for increased concessional funds to the Global South to lower risks and attract private capital, urging governments to double adaptation finance by 2025 and contribute generously to replenish the Green Climate Fund.

He emphasized that investing in health is a critical aspect of climate resilience and called on financial institutions, including development banks, to prioritize climate-health investments. Dr. Al Jaber commended organizations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Green Climate Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation for their commitment to closing the climate-health financing gap at COP28.

During the session, Dr. Al Jaber highlighted the UAE’s legacy and leadership in safeguarding human health, citing the commitment of the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, and President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to prioritize the lives and livelihoods of people.

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