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During the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the health community reached an important milestone in bringing human health to the forefront of the climate change agenda. For the first time in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, a health programme was promoted, led by the UK government as the President of COP26, the World Health Organization (WHO), Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and the UNFCCC Climate Champions.

Two of the programme’s key initiatives were to support countries in developing climate resilient and low carbon sustainable health systems, with countries starting to announce their commitments to these initiatives during COP26 in November 2021.

To date, over 80 countries and areas have committed to building climate resilient and low-carbon sustainable health systems to protect the health of populations from the effects of climate change.

Commitment area 1: Climate resilient health systems

  • Commit to conduct climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessments (V&As) at population level and/or health care facility level by a stated target date.
  • Commit to develop a health national adaptation plan informed by the health V&A, which forms part of the National Adaptation Plan to be published by a stated target date.
  • Commit to use the V&A and HNAP to facilitate access to climate change funding for health (e.g., project proposals submitted to the Global Environmental Facility, Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund, or GCF Readiness programme).

Commitment area 2: Sustainable low carbon health systems

  • High ambition/high emitters: Commit to set a target date by which to achieve health system net zero emissions (ideally by 2050).
  • All countries: Commitment to deliver a baseline assessment of greenhouse gas emissions of the health system (including supply chains)
  • All countries: Commit to develop an action plan or roadmap by a set date to develop a sustainable low carbon health system (including supply chains) which 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.
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