With COP28 ending with a commitment to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels, and a stronger recognition of the health impacts of climate change, the Faculty of Public Health and the Association of Directors of Public Health welcome steps towards necessary action to protect planetary and human health.
However, Governments across the world – particularly wealthier nations who drive fossil fuel consumption and benefit from industry – need to go further, faster to phase out fossil fuel use and transition to sustainable energy sources.
Climate change is the greatest threat that we face as a global community, and the health impacts of rising temperatures, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation are already taking hold across the UK and internationally.
Whilst commitments agreed at COP28 break new ground on reducing fossil fuel use, Governments must do more to deliver the mitigation and adaptation actions necessary to keep average global temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees.
The UK and international public health workforce are already grappling with the severe health impacts of climate change, with heatwaves, wildfires, floods and hurricanes increasing in scale, frequency and intensity. The impacts of these will exacerbate existing health inequalities in the UK, with older people, those in lower income groups, and those with underlying medical conditions at increased risk.
As temperatures reached 40 degrees in the UK for the first time on record during 2022, an estimated 3000 people died as a direct consequence of the extreme heat, and the World Health Organisation estimates that the impacts of climate change will cause 250,000 additional deaths per year from malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone – with the worst consequences borne out by populations who have contributed least to rising global temperatures.
COP28 represents another step forward in global action to tackle the great threat of climate change. We welcome commitments from the UK and international Governments to take further action on fossil fuels, but these agreements must be strengthened if we are to equitably mitigate the global impacts of climate change.
The UK Government must reaffirm its leadership on climate mitigation action and decarbonisation to protect the health of populations across the UK and worldwide, and enable a stronger negotiating position at COP29 and beyond.