Category: COP26

Health must be put at the heart of national climate plans

Health must be put at the heart of national climate plans

By Jeni Miller

For seven decades, the World Health Organization has used April 7th, World Health Day to bring important health issues to public attention. This year, as the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic, the theme is “building a fairer, healthier world for everyone”.

With November’s COP26 fast approaching, this World Health Day message should inspire governments to both take responsibility and to seize the opportunity to commit to ambitious emissions reductions targets, aligned with the Paris Agreement, in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and to make health and equity a central focus of national climate policies.

Right now, many countries are in the process of reviewing their climate commitments and are soon expected to announce updates. They can, and must put health front and centre. The United States, having just re-entered the Paris Agreement, will host a climate leaders’ summit on Earth Day, April 22. To successfully generate international momentum during this summit, the US must step forward with a strong commitment of its own; this is a chance for President Biden to show real climate leadership and recognition of the lessons learned during the pandemic, by fully integrating health into the US Nationally Determined Contribution. Other world leaders must not wait around for US leadership- they must step up their ambitions – and action.

To say there is much to do would be an understatement. A recent UN report found that by 2030, the total GHG emissions of 75 countries responsible for 30% of global emissions are projected to be less than 1% lower than in 2010, falling dangerously short of the 45% reduction in emissions required during this time period if the goal of the Paris Agreement is to be met. The countries responsible for 70% of global emissions are yet to go public with updates to their national climate commitments.

Prolonging this inaction – or taking action that falls far short of what is needed — furthers the risk of endangering both the health of the planet, and of us, the people who depend on its wellbeing for our own health.

In 2020, The World Health Organization and associations representing over 40 million health professionals called for a “green and healthy” COVID-19 recovery. The pandemic has taught that health must be part and parcel of every government policy – including climate policy. A multinational study of doctors’ and nurses’ understanding of and views on climate change, which will be published on 7 April by The Lancet Planetary Health, found that a vast majority of survey respondents believe the health community should have a say in pushing for national policies that will protect health by meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement.

Healthy populations are a prerequisite for economic recovery, while strong health systems are essential to increase resilience to future crises, such as changing infectious disease patterns and extreme weather events.

This is why our organisation, the Global Climate and Health Alliance, plans to release a scorecard by mid-year, to rank progress of countries towards the inclusion of health within national climate commitments – or “Healthy NDCs”, as they prepare for COP26.

Win-win solutions that both protect health and mitigate climate change have never been more relevant than at this moment of economic fragility. Economic well-being is essential to human health; societies that are more economically equitable — where there is less disparity between the wealthiest and the least wealthy — have better health outcomes for all of their citizens. Greater economic equity brings benefits to everyone’s health.

The health impacts of economic disparity have been laid bare by the pandemic. And our most impoverished communities, and low income countries, also suffer disproportionately from climate change impacts.

A country with a healthy national climate action commitment will recognise the impacts of climate change on health, and the need for health and equity to be integrated into adaptation planning. It will set out interventions that reduce emissions and also offer immediate and local health benefits, such as improved air quality, healthier diets, and increased physical activity. Such a country must be ambitious enough to do its fair share to limit warming to 1.5C. Health benefits of climate solutions will help offset the economic costs of climate mitigation and adaptation. Governments can protect their citizens’ health – and prevent millions of untimely deaths – by embedding health in national climate policies.

A paltry 1% reduction in GHG emissions would spell disaster for citizens of every country. Governments must seize this moment to urgently reorient current trajectories for the sake of people worldwide, and for generations to come.

The Global Climate and Health Alliance is calling on governments to ensure that national climate action commitments include:

  • Ambitious commitments for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, aligned with with Paris Agreement target of 1.5C
  • Measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that mitigate climate change and also maximise health benefits – such as by improving air quality, and supporting walking and cycling and public transport use.
  • Calculation of the associated health costs savings, with health impact assessments that demonstrate these health and economic gains.
  • Adaptation strategies which incorporate health and commit investments to build climate smart and resilient healthcare and public health systems.
  • Within and beyond NDCs, Covid-19 recovery investments must align with healthy national climate action/commitments, to protect people, the planet and economies, securing a healthy and sustainable future.

This article was originally published on Climate Home News.

Bangladesh calls for a resilient recovery from COVID-19 as it becomes Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum ahead of COP26

Bangladesh calls for a resilient recovery from COVID-19 as it becomes Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum ahead of COP26

By Will Bugler

Decisive action on climate change must be at the heart of any resilient recovery from COVID-19, according to the Government of Bangladesh. In comments made in its capacity as the new chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and the Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group of Ministers of Finance, Bangladesh called on leaders to ensure that recovery spending targeted at the pandemic also builds resilience to wider systemic shocks created by climate change.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had broken through the thin veneer of our security to the type of global risks we all faced today,” said H.E. Dr. A K Abdul Momen, MP, the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. “It has revealed just how vulnerable society had become and climate change has an even greater potential for disruption, especially for those of us on the frontline”.

Under Bangladesh’s leadership, the CVF indicated it would continue to call for delivery of strengthened contributions to the Paris Agreement. To reinforce this commitment, it confirmed that the country’s Prime Minister, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, will serve as Chair of the CVF.

Bangladesh indicated that its work within the V20 would continue to mobilize the economy and financial resources to fight climate change and ensure international financial institutions are better positioned to respond to climate threats and provide the right support to the most vulnerable. Several innovative financing initiatives under development by the V20 were also highlighted, including the “Accelerated Financing Mechanism”, which aims to address higher capital costs that hold back climate investments in the V20, and the “Sustainable Insurance Facility”, which aims to expand financial protection against climate risks.

“Already reeling from the economic shock of the COVID pandemic our economy was struck by a second tragic event with Cyclone Amphan. This situation of extreme vulnerability is dangerous and unsustainable,” said Ms Fatima Yasmin, Secretary of Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Division. “In leading forward the V20, Bangladesh, therefore, aims to work tirelessly, at home and with all our partner countries and institutions, to ensure today’s economic systems adjust to the realities we face. We will promote all efforts towards urgently reinforcing climate and economic resilience.”


This article was originally published on the Asian Development Bank’s Livable Cities blogsite.
Photo by Syedsazzadulhoque on Wikimedia Commons.
Private sector finance will play a key role at COP26

Private sector finance will play a key role at COP26

By Georgina Wade

The COP26 private finance agenda was unveiled at an event in London last week.  Mark Carney, who will step down as governor of the Bank of England next month to focus on his roles as UN special envoy for climate action and finance and the Prime Minister’s Finance Adviser for COP 26 unveiled the agenda. The event also shared a moving preview of Sir David Attenborough’s new film, a keynote from European Central Bank President Madame Christine Lagarde. Acclimatise Chief Technical Officer, Dr Richenda Connell, attended the event.

In his speech, Carney revealed that the objective for the private finance work for COP26, which will unfold in Scotland in November, was to “ensure that every financial decision take climate change into account”. Carney further explained that actions would be needed by regulators and government to catalyse the private financial sector’s efforts, calling on the private finance sector to “help refine and implement” disclosure based on the Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures (TCFD) framework.

Additionally, Carney mentioned a focus on the three Rs – reporting, risk management and return – in an effort to help unlock the private financial flows that are vital to the transition. Whereas increasing the quantity and quality of reporting is essential to driving a whole economy transition, stress tests allow banks to understand which of their borrowers are ready for the transition to a green economy, and which ones will struggle. Following suite, returns enable investors to make informed decisions on whether companies and portfolios are transition ready.

The UK-Italy COP26 presidency would be building on existing work and networks to build a large coalition of asset owners and managers who expect their portfolio companies to become net-zero aligned. Examples of such networks include the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, Climate Action 100+, and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

The event was generally well-received with some labelling it as a clear call to action for the finance industry. The event is perhaps the first time a COP host government has fully recognised the critical role finance has to play in climate action, and sought to prioritise its contribution. While Carney’s speech and associated strategy overview document lay out some steps to move forward, the clock is ticking. Private finance may have gotten its very own COP26 agenda in driving a whole economy transition, but there is still plenty of work to be done on the road to Glasgow.


Cover photo taken by Dr Richenda Connell.
Climate change: COP26 Glasgow will provide world stage for Scotland’s green innovation

Climate change: COP26 Glasgow will provide world stage for Scotland’s green innovation

By Christopher J White, Francesco Sindico, and Keith Bell, University of Strathclyde

Every year since 1994, the UN has gathered together the world’s governments at its Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference of the parties (COP), held in a different country each time. The convention’s ultimate aim is to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. The onus is on developed countries to lead the way and the convention directs funds to developing countries to help them in their efforts.

COP25, held in Madrid at the beginning of December 2019, did not end well. Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg’s solemn speech gave short shrift to countries neglecting their responsibilities, and the likes of the US President, Donald Trump, and Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, responded with personal attacks.

Tensions ran high when climate justice activists were barred from entering the venue and talks stalled, and negotiations ending two days late with a compromise deal on cutting global carbon emissions. Given the raised status of the world’s climate emergency, it was a disappointing end to a conference for which many had high hopes.

In the cold light of a new year, everyone from activists to world leaders are reflecting on COP25’s ultimate failure to set down rules on creating a carbon market between countries. But already, behind the scenes, the UK is looking to the next summit – because this year COP26 will be pitching its tent in Glasgow.

More than 30,000 people are expected to descend on the city in November 2020. For those who live and work in Glasgow it will be a chance to experience being part of an important climate action event. People from around the country will be able to participate in hundreds of events that will be happening across the city. So why will COP26 be such a big occasion for Glasgow, and what will the city itself bring to the mix?

Why hosting COP26 is a big deal

The world’s governments have met every year for nearly three decades to (try to) agree how to stop – or at least reduce the impacts of – climate change. But the fact that these nations have not been able to meet the overall UNFCCC objectives is one of the reasons we now face a global climate emergency.

As world summits go, they don’t get much more important than the UN’s climate change convention. In those three decades, this will be the first time a COP summit has been held in the UK. From a policy perspective, COP26 will be important for at least four reasons:

1. It will take place in the year when all countries are asked to submit their new long-term goals – so ambition to address the global climate emergency will be high on the agenda.

2. It will have to finish the work that COP25 was unable able to conclude – setting out the rules for a carbon market between countries.

3. From Glasgow onwards, the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement will be the key driver of international climate action.

4. COP26 will come just weeks after the US presidential election with the potential implications this will have for US climate policy and US participation in COP26.

Come November 2020, the eyes of the world will be firmly on Glasgow.

Glasgow on show

The Scots have always been keen innovators.

Scotland has a long and rich history of discovery and innovation, including Glasgow’s past as a world-class centre of shipbuilding, trade and industrial production – a legacy that has contributed to greenhouse gas emissions but has also added much to the quality of human life. From pioneering work on the steam engine and wind turbines, to the invention of television and the life-saving discoveries of penicillingin and tonic and Billy Connolly’s shipyard humour, Glasgow has helped shape the modern world.

Glasgow and its history can also shed light on how cities, societies and people can reinvent themselves from a former industrial workhorse to a city of culture, services and new green technologies. Scotland’s collective commitment to net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045 now puts the country at the forefront of real action on the climate emergency. During COP26, Glasgow’s research and innovation will be on show to the world.

Engineers are leading the development of renewable technologies such as tidal energy and floating offshore wind turbines. Scotland is at the forefront of establishing hydrogen as a viable energy source, providing hubs for related skills and knowledge-sharing, to ensure that new technologies can be integrated into the grid and controlled.

Scotland also leads the way not only on the science innovation, but on ways in which research and development can provide community-informed solutions to sea and climate change challenges, and on how climate change relates to Scotland’s coastline and islands.

Researchers in Scotland are also at the forefront of the science-policy-practice interface, working with people in the field to deliver climate change risk and adaptation policies. And with climate change already a reality, Glasgow is also producing science that helps communities become more prepared and resilient.

Scotland is at the forefront of offshore wind turbine technology. Shutterstock

More than a political event

Glasgow’s experts and innovators will have their moment to shine at COP26 – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with those deciding the direction and effectiveness of the global debate on climate change action. COP26 Glasgow can also be an inspirational event for Scotland’s young people, the generation which will inherit both the burden of climate change and the means to address it.

As we build up to COP26, the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council, alongside the universities of Strathclyde, Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian, will be planning numerous events that will run alongside the main COP26 activities.

The countdown has begun. Glasgow will seek to demonstrate to the world how Scottish research and innovation is playing an important role in tackling the global climate emergency.


This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Cover photo by Artur Kraft on Unsplash.