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COP27 deliberations must prioritise health – WHO

Ntsoaki Motaung

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says “health” must be front and centre in the Conference Of Parties (COP27) Climate Change Conference, which started from November 6-18 this year, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

WHO said the climate crisis continues to make people sick and jeopardizes their lives, and therefore health must be at the core of these critical negotiations.

The United Nations (UN) climate change conferences are the official meetings of the COP.

The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The UNFCCC is an international treaty to address climate change. The treaty effectively includes every nation, with a total of 197 ratifications.

Every year since 1995 (except 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic), leaders from all over the world have come together to discuss and agree on international climate policy.

WHO believes that the conference must conclude with progress on the four key goals of mitigation, adaptation, financing and collaboration to tackle the climate crisis.

“Climate change is already affecting people’s health and will continue to do so at an accelerating rate unless urgent action is taken,” WHO said.

According to the organization, climate change is making millions of people sick or more vulnerable to disease all over the world and the increasing destructiveness of extreme weather events disproportionately affects poor and marginalized communities.

“Thirty-one million people in the greater Horn of Africa are facing acute hunger and 11 million children are facing acute malnutrition as the region faces one of the worst droughts in recent decades. Climate change already has an impact on food security and if current trends persist, it will only get worse.”

During his ceremonial opening speech at COP27, the United Kingdom (UK) representative, COP26 President, Alok Sharma’s indicated that every major report published this year underscores the point that progress is being made.

“Thanks to the commitments we garnered ahead of and at COP26, and indeed in our Presidency year, emissions in 2030 are expected to be around six gigatons lower. That is the equivalent of 12 percent of today’s global annual emissions.

“And with full implementation of all the commitments in place today, including NDCs and net zero targets, the reports suggest that we are heading to 1.7 degrees warming by the end of the century not 1.5.”

report published by UN Climate Change ahead of COP27 shows that whilst countries are bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward, efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

According to United Nations Climate Change, COP27 is also taking place against the backdrop of inadequate ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CO2 emissions need to be cut 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels to meet the central Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

This is crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall.

The Afrobarometer 2021/2022 Round 9 Survey says, majorities in eight of the 20 countries report that droughts have gotten more severe over the past decade. Large majorities see worsening drought in Madagascar 86 percent, Niger 72 percent, and Tunisia 69 percent.

“Basotho 73 percent, Mauritians 68 percent, and Nigeriens 64 percent express the greatest concern about worsening floods. On average across 20 countries, only half 51 percent of citizens are aware of climate change.

“Awareness is as high as 74 percent in Malawi, 73 percent in Mauritius, and 70 percent in Gabon, whereas only two in 10 Tunisians 22 percent are aware of climate change.”

According to the Survey, among those who are aware of climate change, most say it is making their lives worse. This perception is especially widespread in Madagascar 91 percent, Lesotho 88 percent, Mauritius 86percent, Malawi 86 percent, and Benin 85 percent.

“Majorities in all 20 countries want their government to take action now to limit climate change, even if it is costly, causes job losses, or takes a toll on the economy. In eight countries, 80 percent or more of citizens who are aware of climate change share this view.

“Most citizens are not satisfied with the efforts of various stakeholders in fighting climate change and its effects, and demand “a lot more” from their governments, business and industry, developed countries, and ordinary citizens,” the survey said.

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