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Global Climate And Health Alliance: COP26 Outcomes Not Nearly Enough To Protect Health

Responding to the outcomes of COP26 in Glasgow, Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance, said:

“The health community came to COP26 with clear demands from 46 million health workers on issues critical to protecting people’s health and social equity - yet COP26 has delivered on just a few of them."

“Where progress was made it was incremental, when what was required was a great bound forward by governments. People’s health and lives remain grievously in harm's way from climate change - and the clock is still ticking to achieve the 1.5C target. Coming out of this COP, governments cannot assume that they can now rest - they must instead push far beyond what is asked of them in the Glasgow Climate Pact in order to achieve what is required to protect human health from climate change."

“Governments must focus on what is needed for a healthy and equitable future, and to ensure the protection of people’s health from the worst impacts of climate change: they must deliver on their commitments to limit warming to 1.5C; and they must deliver on the climate finance that redresses the outsized benefits wealthy countries have enjoyed from their high carbon economies, and addresses the devastating impacts on people’s health outsourced around the world”.

“They must also act upon and enforce the protection of human rights, the right to health, Indigenous rights and intergenerational equity, which are clearly stated in the final text of COP26.”

“We welcome the strong language within COP26’s Glasgow Climate Pact that re-commits governments to limiting temperature rise to 1.5C, in line with the most recent science. However, the Glasgow statement is painfully thin on substance as to how countries plan to deliver this”, said Miller. “Limiting warming to 1.5C is vitally important to protecting people’s health - every tenth of a degree matters when it comes to protecting lives from devastating climate impacts."

“We also welcome the request for countries to align their climate commitments (their Nationally Determined Contributions or “NDCs”) with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022, which will require many countries to submit updated NDCs in the coming twelve months.”

“While it seemed that COP26 was set to deliver the crucial commitment of governments to phase out coal and end fossil fuel subsidies, this language was progressively whittled away during the drafting process of the Glasgow statement - a shameful act, given that air pollution from burning fossil fuels kills millions of people per year, with coal the worst offender”.

In the final hours of COP, India, South Africa, Iran and Nigeria expressed opposition to even the more diluted language, with the potential at one point for the mention of coal to be entirely removed. The text finally adopted referred to a coal “phase down”, rather than coal phase out, in response to which Fiji expressed astonishment and immense disappointment, noting that phase ‘down’ has no quantifiable end point. Meanwhile, Fiji’s own suggestions days earlier, to strengthen text on loss and damage, were dismissed.

“It is notable - and reprehensible that even this weak language indicates progress, as it is the first time the need to phase out fossil fuels has ever been mentioned in a UNFCCC agreement”

“To top it off, governments failed to deliver the $100bn USD per year of climate finance that had been previously promised by last year, and any approach to compensating low income countries for the health and other impacts they are already struggling with is absent from the COP26 outcome documents. In vulnerable countries and communities, lives are being lost and people’s health is being harmed, now. Developed countries cannot just keep talking about finance for loss and damage and adaptation - they need to deliver the necessary resources. This has got to be a major focus of COP27, which will be hosted by Egypt on behalf of the Africa region.”

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