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World Health Assembly: Health Professionals Hail Adoption Of Landmark Climate And Health Resolution

Resolution adopted by consensus 

Geneva, 30 May 2024:-The Global Climate and Health Alliance today welcomed the adoption of a landmark resolution on Climate Change and Health by 194 World Health Organization (WHO) member states during the World Health Assembly (WHA 77, May 27-June 1), which underlines climate change as a major threat to global public health, and sets out a framework to promote health and build climate-resilient and sustainable health systems [1]. The key global health meeting took place just ahead of next week’s UN technical negotiations on climate in Bonn (SB 60).

“Adoption of the Climate Change and Health resolution during this World Health Assembly demonstrates a clear political commitment by governments and WHO to scale up climate action as a public health priority in order to protect people from the increasing health impacts of climate change”, said Rosie Tasker, Clean Air Liaison at the Global Climate and Health Alliance. “Following years of calls for greater action by civil society organisations and the Director General and other senior leadership of WHO, the resolution also clearly connects health to climate mitigation, adaptation, and for the first time, loss and damage. Adoption of the resolution should now spur WHO and the global health community to respond to the challenges of the climate crisis, including working more closely with the UNFCCC, and building on the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health”.

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“The Climate Change and Health resolution highlights the myriad ways in which climate change is shaping people’s health, from increasing food insecurity and air pollution, to emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, alongside more frequent extreme heat and weather events”, said Tasker. “The resolution also notes how climate change is affecting the ability of individuals to access clinics and hospitals. One major theme during the WHA negotiations will be how climate change is already exacerbating gender inequities, and risks faced by the most vulnerable and marginalised communities, jeopardising the achievement of global health and development goals”. 

“COP28 was the moment when health finally started to garner real attention during climate negotiations, and we now welcome climate in turn becoming a primary focus for the world’s health community”, said Jess Beagley, Policy Lead at the Global Climate and Health Alliance. “For decades, the intersection of climate and health has fallen between the cracks of national and intergovernmental processes. With the UNFCCC intersessional climate meetings in Bonn next week, and the COP29 international climate negotiations on the horizon, it’s crucial that the health and climate community maintains and builds on this momentum during this World Health Assembly. We’re calling for urgent cross-sectoral action, beginning with eliminating the world’s dependence on fossil fuels to protect people's health and wellbeing, and with investments in health systems and societies to better withstand challenges of the climate crisis”. 

About the Climate Change and Health Resolution
The resolution on Climate Change and Health also highlights how climate change is exacerbating gender vulnerabilities, and includes references to the need to increase knowledge and understanding of climate change, and of how countries should respond. It highlights that climate should be integrated into health monitoring systems, and calls on national governments to actively participate in the Alliance for Action on Climate Change and Health (ATACH) - a WHO-led platform for the exchange of knowledge and best practices, and for collaboration, on building health systems that are sustainable and resilient to the adverse effects of climate change. The resolution also promotes intersectoral collaboration among government ministries, e.g. health and environment, and calls for WHO to develop a Global Plan of Action (GPoA) on Climate Change and Health to guide implementation of the resolution.

In response, governments are now expected to commit to a series of accelerated actions to address climate change, including assessing national vulnerabilities and adaptation opportunities, and developing a national plan to respond to these. A key component will be better collection of data on the health impact of climate change, to help shape policies and make the most effective investments. Governments should commit to integrating this climate data into existing early warning and other information systems. Finally, the resolution encourages health ministries to engage in broader climate discussions. Around 5% of global emissions stem from healthcare, leaving 95% from other sectors. It is therefore critical to work across governments to curb emissions, make the case for accelerated action, and maximise the health-benefits of climate action, such as from cleaner air. 

The resolution, which will not be legally binding, was adopted by consensus on Thursday 30 May. Proposed by the Netherlands and Peru, with support from an international coalition of 37 co-sponsor member states led by Barbados, Kenya, Fiji and the United Kingdom, this international collaboration reflects the urgent nature of responding to the health impacts of climate change and the need for a coordinated global response. 

The resolution was called for and closely followed by a diverse coalition of over 50 organizations across more than 30 different countries. This network includes universities; professional societies; national, regional and global civil society organizations that have provided expert commentary bringing in perspectives on women's and children’s health, disability, infectious and non-communicable diseases. 

However, some key issues were absent from the final text: “While we welcome the Climate Change and Health Resolution, and we strongly encourage WHO Member States to adopt and implement it, the resolution text does not touch on several crucial issues”, said Tasker. “Most notably the resolution lacks any mention of how fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis, or the need for a just transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy as a public health imperative. While there is recognition of health co-benefits, the resolution text remains vague on integrating climate into national health policies and health into national climate plans and strategies.” 

“In addition, more depth and clarity is needed on the resolution’s action to protect vulnerable populations, as the resolution lacks any mention of key groups such as the young, the elderly, LGBTQIA, or refugees and migrants, many of whom are already facing the brunt of the issue. To ensure that the health and climate response is equitable and just, these especially vulnerable groups must be explicitly addressed by government plans and policies”, added Tasker

Now that the resolution has been adopted, the World Health Organization is expected to work on developing the Global Plan of Action on Climate Change and Health (GPoA) to drive this work throughout the organisation, alongside WHO’s strategy to make its own operations climate neutral by 2030.

"Looking ahead, the Global Climate and Health Alliance and our civil society members and colleagues stand ready to contribute to and support WHO's development of the GPoA, where we'll be seeking to address some of the resolution's shortfalls", concluded Tasker

The GPoA is set to be developed following the WHA77 meeting and adopted at the WHA78 in May 2025. 

[1] Climate change and health resolution, A77/A/CONF./7, 29 May 2024
37 co-sponsoring states: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Cook Islands, Chile, Czechia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Georgia, Kenya, Kiribati, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Micronesia, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Samoa, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Ukraine, Uruguay

About the World Health Assembly:
The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) held in May each year. It brings together Ministers and other senior health leaders from WHO’s 194 Member States to discuss global health issues, identify common priorities and request WHO to address these through its different programmes. 

Through its resolutions, the WHA shapes the direction of global health by addressing emerging challenges, setting targets, and advocating for policies to improve health outcomes worldwide.

World Health Assembly resolutions: 
Resolutions are one of the main tools that WHO Member States have to guide the actions of the organization and shape the direction of global health to help address emerging or persistent health challenges, set targets or request the development of technical guidance. They have impact in three different ways:

  1. For governments, resolutions provide a framework of non-legally binding commitments to help countries align their policies and programmes nationally to address key issues and support more effective investment in health. Resolutions can also place greater focus on key issues, such as climate and health, and provide useful tools for national advocates to encourage more ambitious or faster action such as through changes to laws, policies, and budgets.
  2. For the WHO, resolutions shape the organization's mandate and provide guidance on their priorities, deliverables and reporting. The scope of the demands put on the organization through the increase in the number of resolutions in recent years have also helped make the case for increases in funding for the WHO.
  3. For other UN and international organizations, resolutions can act as a valuable reference point for those who wish to engage with WHO on key topics, such as OneHealth, and can help catalyse new collaborations across agencies and organizations to scale up action.

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