Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

COP28 Health Day: A Watershed Moment for Climate and Health

| Jan. 02, 2024

Climate change is not just an environmental issue; it's a health crisis touching every corner of our cities and stretching to the farthest reaches of our planet. COP28 has acknowledged this by introducing the inaugural 'Health Day', integrating a crucial health perspective into the global climate dialogue. The groundbreaking 'COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health', endorsed by 124 countries, highlights the urgent need to fortify healthcare systems against climate-induced health challenges, ranging from infectious diseases and air pollution to extreme heat. 

Voices from COP28 on Climate-Health Nexus 

1. Shweta Narayan (International Climate and Health Campaigner, Health Care Without Harm): “The essence of the Hippocratic oath, to first do no harm, demands our immediate action against the climate crisis.” 

2. John Kerry (United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate): “Violating our Hippocratic oath, we cause harm only to seek cures from the very doctors we burden. This cycle is sheer insanity.” 

Health and Climate: An Intertwined Reality 

3. Mia Mottley (Prime Minister of Barbados): “The harsh realities of wildfires, food and water scarcity, and heatwaves underscore the need to proactively address potential health crises, including emerging pathogens.” 

4. Jane Burston (CEO, Clean Air Fund): “Recognizing the health impacts of climate negotiations marks a pivotal shift. It’s not just about cutting emissions; it's about ending health issues like asthma and improving our quality of life.” 

Historic Health Day 

5. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director, World Health Organization): “Health can be a catalyst for climate action, as it is a universal concern.” 6. Mafalda Duarte (Executive Director, Green Climate Fund): “Leverage health as a tool for climate advocacy. We’ve seen the costs of unprepared health systems during the pandemic, and climate change poses even greater challenges.” 

Looking Forward 

7. Omnia El Omrani (Youth Envoy COP28 and Medical Doctor, Egypt): “There's a desire for health-centered climate solutions, especially among young healthcare professionals ready to drive change.” 

8. Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy (UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation): “Health is the personal face of climate change, making it our collective responsibility to protect our climate for the health and well-being of present and future generations.” 

Call to Action: Amplifying Voices for Change 

The commitments made during COP28's Health Day signal a transformative moment in the climate and global health agenda. But this is just the beginning. To build resilient health systems and prevent future climate-related health crises, we need more voices, more action. If you're a healthcare professional, join the WHO's call to action. Advocate for better health for all, and be part of this crucial change. Your voice matters in shaping a healthier, more sustainable future.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Brown, Sarah, Syra Madad and Saad Amer.“COP28 Health Day: A Watershed Moment for Climate and Health.” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, January 2, 2024.

The Authors