Governments must undertake emergency action to rapid reduction of global emissions
Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases. The health risks of increases over 1.5°C are well established. Heat-related mortality among elderly has increased by over 50% in the last 20 years. Recently, health journals across the world simultaneously published an editorial calling for world leaders to take emergency action to limit climate change, restore biodiversity, and protect health.
More dehydration and renal function loss have been linked to higher cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality. Global heating is also contributing to the decline in global yield potential for major crops, falling by 1.8-5.6% since 1981; this, together with the effects of extreme weather and soil depletion, is hampering efforts to reduce undernutrition. Many countries are aiming to protect at least 30% of the world's land and oceans by 2030.
The global response must prioritise equity. To be fair to the global effort, reduction commitments must take into account each country's historical emissions, current emissions, and response capacity.
To achieve these targets, governments must intervene to support the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, health systems, and much more.
Huge investment will be needed, beyond what is being considered or delivered anywhere in the world. But such investments will produce huge positive health and economic outcomes. These include high quality jobs, reduced air pollution, increased physical activity, and improved housing and diet.
Better air quality alone would realise health benefits that easily offset the global costs of emissions reductions. These measures will also improve the social and economic determinants of health. Cooperation hinges on wealthy nations doing more.
Professor Abdullah H. Baqui, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition said, "No temperature rise is safe. The environmental crisis is already damaging health across the world, falling disproportionately on those countries and communities who've contributed least to the problem and are least able to mitigate the harms. Wealthy nations must do more to support those on the frontline."
High income countries must meet and go beyond their outstanding commitment to provide US$100 billion a year, making up for any shortfall in 2020 and increasing contributions to and beyond 2025. Funding must be equally split between mitigation and adaptation, including improving the resilience of health systems.
Financing should be through grants rather than loans, building local capabilities and truly empowering communities, and should come alongside forgiving large debts, which constrain the agency of so many low-income countries.
Additional funding must be marshalled to compensate for inevitable loss and damage caused by the consequences of the environmental crisis.