COP26 and Health: Some Progress, But Too Slow and Not Enough
The Health Community Must Step Up Its Efforts to Hold Countries Accountable for Reducing Greenhouse Emissions and Promoting Adaptation
Keywords:Climate change, Health, COP26
The editorial on climate change and biodiversity published in over 220 health journals in September had two main demands: keep global temperature increases below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic damage to health; and accept that this can be achieved only by rich countries making bigger cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and transferring substantial resources to the countries’ most vulnerable the effects of climate change.1 Neither demand was fully met at COP26 in Glasgow. The editorial was also aiming to make the voice of the health community more prominent in global discussions on climate change and environmental destruction. Some progress was made with this aim, but again not enough.
Although the mantra of COP26 was “keep 1.5°C alive,” the pledges made by countries to reduce emissions are insufficient to keep the temperature rise to below 1.5°C. Before COP26, the United Nations estimated that current pledges will lead to an increase of 2.7°C, a level that would lead to devastating effects on health through extreme weather events, crop failure, water shortages, forced migration, conflict, and a rise in sea level that will mean the disappearance of some island countries.2 Even with the additional pledges made at COP26, temperatures are expected to rise well above 2°C.3
We must encourage countries to be bolder in cutting emissions, promoting adaptation, supporting vulnerable countries – and do more to hold them to account. We must also concentrate on implementation, particularly within health systems where we have most influence.
Atwoli L, Baqui AH, Benfield T, Bosurgi R, Godlee F, Hancocks S, et al. Call for Emergency Action to Limit Global Temperature Increases, Restore Biodiversity, and Protect Health. Wealthy Nations Must Do Much More, Much Faster. Int J Med Students. 2021 Jul-Sep;9(3):189-91.
UN Environment Programme. Addendum to the Emissions Gap Report 2021. https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/37350/AddEGR21.pdf. Cited Dec 7, 2021.
Climate Action Tracker. Glasgow’s 2030 credibility gap: net zero’s lip service to climate action. Available from: https://climateactiontracker.org/publications/glasgows-2030-credibility-gap-net-zeros-lip-service-to-climate-action/. Cited Dec 7, 2021.
The Guardian. Figueres C. Cop26 took us one step closer to combating the climate crisis. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/15/cop-26-agreement-victories-global-economy-climate-crisis. Last updated Nov 15, 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021.
United Nations Conference of the Parties. Glasgow Climate Pact 2021: Available from: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cop26_auv_2f_cover_decision.pdf. Last updated Nov 13, 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021.
Khadka NS. COP26: Did India betray vulnerable nations? BBC News 2021 Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-59286790. Last updated Nov 16, 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021.
Eden T. COP26: Greta Thunberg dismisses summit as ‘greenwash festival of empty promises’ Evening Standard. Available from: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/greta-thunberg-speech-protests-glasgow-cop26-greenwash-festival-b964695.html. Last updated Nov 5, 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021.
Spencer B. Firms to be named and shamed for ‘greenwashing’ their climate record. The Times. Available from: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/firms-to-be-named-and-shamed-for-greenwashing-their-climate-record-nxdhd0t3j. Last updated Nov 7, 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021.
Lancet Countdown on Climate Change and Health. Healthcare sector greenhouse gas emissions. Available from: https://www.lancetcountdown.org/data-platform/mitigation-actions-and-health-co-benefits/3-6-mitigation-in-the-healthcare-sector. Last updated Sep 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021.
World Health Organization. Countries commit to develop climate-smart health care at COP26 UN climate conference. Available from: https://www.who.int/news/item/09-11-2021-countries-commit-to-develop-climate-smart-health-care-at-cop26-un-climate-conference. Last updated Nov 9, 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021.
Glasgow Climate Pact. Advance unedited version. Decision -/CP.26. Available from: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cop26_auv_2f_cover_decision.pdf. Cited Dec 7, 2021
BBC News. COP26: 'Paris built the arena, Glasgow starts the race' – Kerry. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-59278509. Last updated Nov 13, 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021
AWSforWP. John Kerry: Cop26 brings us closer than ever to avoiding climate chaos. Available from: https://awsforwp.com/2021/11/14/john-kerry-cop26-brings-us-closer-than-ever-to-avoiding-climate-chaos-policeman-26/. Last updated Nov 14, 2021; Cited Dec 7, 2021.
- 2022-01-06 (2)
- 2021-12-16 (1)
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Richard Smith
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
- Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
- The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
- Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site; with the understanding that the above condition can be waived with permission from the Author and that where the Work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.
- The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgment of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
- Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
- The Author represents and warrants that:
- the Work is the Author’s original work;
- the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
- the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
- the Work has not previously been published;
- the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
- the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
- The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from the Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.
Enforcement of copyright
The IJMS takes the protection of copyright very seriously.
If the IJMS discovers that you have used its copyright materials in contravention of the license above, the IJMS may bring legal proceedings against you seeking reparation and an injunction to stop you using those materials. You could also be ordered to pay legal costs.
If you become aware of any use of the IJMS' copyright materials that contravenes or may contravene the license above, please report this by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you become aware of any material on the website that you believe infringes your or any other person's copyright, please report this by email to email@example.com