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  • Writer's pictureTom Petersen

At COP26, Countries Commit to Build Climate Resilient and Sustainable Health Systems




Announced on November 9, 2021, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), 50 countries (including the United States) have committed to develop climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems in response to growing evidence that climate change strongly impacts people’s health.

Health was chosen as a scientific priority area for COP26 by the UK government because it has been proven that poor health outcomes are a direct result of climate change, and because human health is a necessary part of the equation — well placed to be a part of the solution. The COP26 Health Programme was established to build support for health leadership and to increase the healthcare community’s support for action on climate change.

The health sector accounts for 4.6% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Reducing emissions is crucial and presents the health sector an opportunity to lead by contributing to national climate targets, building greater resilience into the system, and directly addressing the intersection between climate and health.

The COP26 Health Programme will focus on five key health priorities:

  • Building climate resilient health systems.

  • Developing low-carbon sustainable health systems.

  • Adaptation Research for Health.

  • The inclusion of health priorities in Nationally Determined Contributions.

  • Raising the voice of health professionals as advocates for stronger ambition on climate change.

The first two priorities have been translated into initiatives that countries can commit to: The Climate Resilient Health Systems Initiative and the Low-Carbon Sustainable Health Systems Initiative. The US is a signatory to both. For more information on the COP26 Health Programme initiatives, click here.

Our work at Environmental and Engineering Solutions, Inc. aligns with the Low-Carbon Sustainable Health Systems Initiative and so we dug a little deeper.

This is an initiative between the UK COP26 Presidency and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Climate Champions Team, with partners in Healthcare Without Harm, Greener NHS Team and WHO. The aim is to gain country commitments to develop national plans for sustainable, resilient, low-carbon health systems, setting them on a path to net zero.

There are three commitments under the Low-Carbon Sustainable Health Systems Initiative:

  • Set a target date by which to achieve health system net zero emissions (ideally by 2050). (High ambition/high emitters)

  • Deliver a baseline assessment of GHGs of the health system, including supply chains. (All countries)

  • Develop a sustainable low-carbon health system, including supply chains, that also considers human exposure to air pollution and the role the health sector can play in reducing exposure to air pollution through its activities and its actions. (All countries)

Regarding these initiatives, Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “The future of health must be built on health systems that are resilient to the impacts of epidemics, pandemics and other emergencies, but also to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and the increasing burden of various diseases related to air pollution and our warming planet. Health systems must also be part of the solution, by reducing carbon emissions.”

EES works with clients on their path to net zero, by setting baseline GHG emissions, defining goals, and developing plans for emissions reduction for themselves and their supply chains.


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