Health Systems Take on Climate Change

The COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. November 4, 2021. Image: Emily Macinnes/Bloomberg/Getty
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The COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. November 4, 2021. Image: Emily Macinnes/Bloomberg/Getty

As country representatives continue to negotiate gritty details of agreements at the COP26 UN climate conference, WHO announced today that 50 countries have committed to building climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems. 

  • 45 of the countries vowed to make their health systems more sustainable and low-carbon, WHO said
  • 14 have set 2050 as their target date for reaching net zero carbon emissions.

Why this is important:

  • Worldwide, health care systems have a climate footprint roughly equal to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 514 coal power plants, according to a 2019 report.  
  • The global health care sector is responsible for 4.4% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The health sector in the US is responsible for 8.5% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The countries’ commitments in Glasgow reflect a larger realization that they need to adapt to the reality of climate change’s impact on health. 

  • 67% of countries surveyed by the WHO have completed or are currently engaged in an assessment of their health vulnerabilities due to climate change and possible adaptations, per a report released yesterday.

Not surprising: A lack of resources is a major reason why many countries aren’t moving faster in their efforts to safeguard people’s health, according to a separate WHO statement.  


Few willing to change lifestyle to save the planet, climate survey finds – The Guardian 

Canadian becomes world’s first patient to be diagnosed as suffering from ‘climate change’ – The Independent

The Migrant Workers Who Follow Climate Disasters – The New Yorker


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