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COP28 – Health and Climate

Dec 8, 2023 | Blog |

By Rev. Rebekah Kokalis, Interfaith Power & Light

Having been to COP27, I was already aware that the two-week climate conference can be exhausting. Dress shoes are replaced with sneakers after the first week of 10,000+ steps a day in the heat, 14+ hour workdays become the norm, and your healthy eating choices become questionable (the four pieces of chocolate I ate instead of a meal for dinner the other night was delicious).

Rev. Susan Hendershot and Anna Yelverton at the U.S. State Department taking time for their mental health and enjoying the moment

Is it all worth it? Without a doubt!

This year, the IPL delegation has been impressively prioritizing our health and well-being daily, ensuring we make the most of this historic climate conference. But what if this weren’t an option?

Numerous communities in the U.S. and worldwide grapple with the health repercussions of pollution and the escalating threats from heatwaves, infectious diseases, and food and shelter insecurities, unable to escape its clutches. Now, after years of discussions, the link between health and climate is finally gaining recognition at COP!

The inaugural Health Day at COP28 in Dubai on December 3 marked a significant milestone in acknowledging the connection between climate change and health. The event secured a substantial $1 billion in funding for mitigation and adaptation programs, with a focus on transforming health systems and safeguarding vulnerable communities. A new Declaration on Climate and Health, signed by 124 countries, underscored the need to prepare healthcare systems for climate impacts and emphasized government responsibility for public health.

Overall, Health Day has the potential to catalyze a fossil fuel phase-out, emission mitigation, and societal adaptation. The clarity on the science of climate and health leaves leaders with no excuse for ignorance. Future climate negotiations must prioritize health, with success measured in human well-being, as emphasized by U.S. Special Climate Envoy John Kerry in Dubai.

To learn more about how health and climate connect at COP, watch Texas Impact’s video in The Austin Chronicle.

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